- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas’ attorney general on Wednesday rejected the wording of a proposed ballot measure aimed at repealing a new state law prohibiting local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said changes were needed to the proposal, which would ask voters to weigh in on the law prohibiting cities and counties from prohibiting discrimination on a basis not covered in state law. Rutledge must certify the measure before organizers can begin gathering the roughly 51,000 signatures from registered to qualify it for the ballot.

Arkansas became the second state to enact such a ban in February when Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed the measure to become law without his signature. It takes effect later this year.

Rutledge said the proposal can’t be crafted as a repeal of the state law.

“Contrary to your proposal’s structure, a statewide referendum is not an effort or question ‘to repeal’ a measure; rather, it is simply a means of putting a legislative enactment (here, Act 137 of 2015) before the voters for approval or rejection,” she wrote.

David Couch, the attorney who submitted the proposal, said he’d rework the measure and submit a new one but complained that Rutledge’s rejection was an unnecessary delay. Couch said he believed the attorney general could have substituted revised language.

“She’s not doing anything other than delaying the beginning of the referendum process,” Couch said.

If the proposal is certified, Couch has a short wind to qualify it for the ballot. Signatures would be due 90 days after the Legislature formally adjourns, which is expected later this month.

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