John M. Becker

Fayetteville Adopts Fully Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Filed By John M. Becker | August 20, 2014 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Arkansas, civil rights, Fayetteville, gender identity, Michelle Duggar, non-discrimination ordinance, nondiscrimination ordinance, sexual orientation

fayetteville-city-council.jpgToday, in the wee hours of the morning (3:20 a.m.) and after almost 10 hours of debate and sometimes emotional citizen testimony, the city council in Fayetteville, Arkansas passed a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance on a 6-2 vote. The measure prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Other protected categories include marital status, familial status, veteran status, and socioeconomic background.

Fayetteville -- the third-largest city in Arkansas, with a population of 77,000 -- is the first city in the state to adopt such an ordinance.

The Fayetteville Flyer reports:

The proposal, brought forward by Alderman Matthew Petty, will appoint a city staff member to investigate complaints from residents who feel they've been discriminated against during housing transactions, employment decisions, and other public accommodations in Fayetteville.

During the meeting, aldermen amended the ordinance - at the request of Petty - to exempt all tax-exempt properties or places of worship owned by a church from being included. That move, Petty said, was to appease religious groups who earlier this month said they should not have to open their places of worship to people of different beliefs.

Alderman Justin Tennant, an opponent of the measure who ultimately voted against it, tried to amend the proposal to put it up for a public vote. That amendment failed, 2-6. Tennant said that if equality opponents want to mount their own ballot initiative campaign, they will only have approximately until the end of the month to collect and submit more than 4,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Otherwise a special election would have to be called.

The measure passed despite an ugly fear-mongering campaign from equality opponents like Michelle Duggar, a mother of 19 and star of the TLC "reality" show 19 Kids and Counting. In a disgustingly transphobic robocall for the Arkansas Family Council, Duggar lied that the measure would "allow males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female" to use "womens' and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas, and other areas that are designated for females only."

Thankfully, most residents and city council members saw through Duggar's discredited anti-trans distortions. According to the Flyer, of the 73 Fayetteville residents who spoke on the measure, 49 people were in favor and 24 opposed. The anti-equality side brought in reinforcements -- 13 of 14 non-Fayetteville residents who spoke were against the ordinance -- but even with outside help they were not able to tip the balance in their favor.

Just before the successful vote, Mayor Lioneld Jordan came out strongly in favor of the measure and said the city was ready to take this step.

"Just today we've seen many of our citizens who've been excluded from the table of equality, and I believe it's time for everyone to have a place at that table, no matter where they come from, what they believe or who they love," he said.

"When we accomplish that then we can truly hold hands and sing, 'The land of the free and the home of the brave,' and actually mean it. We've got to go to some place we've never been or we'll all just be stuck right where we are."

Kudos to the city of Fayetteville for going to that place today.

A copy of the ordinance is after the jump.

Fayetteville, Arkansas Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Photo credit: Jacqui Froelich/KUAF.

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