The effort to pass a Fayetteville civil rights ordinance ran into opposition last night as the Council amended the proposal by Alderman Matthew Petty to meet some objections. It has not yet reached a final vote.
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About two dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the discussion, some who were in favor of the ordinance, and many who were against it. Those speaking included both residents and pastors representing local churches in Fayetteville and the surrounding area. Those in favor said the ordinance would shine a light on and protect against discrimination. Those against said it was an unnecessary, overreaching law that would cause more problems than it solved.
The ordinance was amended to clarify that a covered employee does not include an applicant for a job and that the ordinance would not apply to use of religious facilities for weddings or other activities. The council also removed a section aimed at prohibiting posting notices about refusal of service.
The ordinance would protect equal access to housing, employment and public accommodations, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity family status, marital status, economic status, religion, disability, veteran status and — oh yes — sexual orientation.
It’s the last that’s the real rub, though at least one preacher had a problem with gender identity, too. A representative of Southern Baptist convention president Ronnie Floyd’s mega Cross Church and several Arkansas legislators, including Charlie Collins, Randy Alexander and non-Fayettevillain Bob Ballinger, turned out to protest. See, their religion might require them to discriminate against gay people (that’s in the Bible somewhere, isn’t it?) and it would be a violation of their religious freedom to protect certain sorts of people, particularly those with gay cooties, from discrimination.
It’s the wave of the future. Expect to see more of it. The only way to protect good people from discrimination is to allow them to discriminate against certain minorities in employment and public accommodation, particularly the LGBT variety.
Twitter feeds from Jacqui Froelich of KUAF indicate the council was moving toward consensus on the ordinance with the amendments. She also said: “Fayetteville City Councilwoman Sara Marsh loudly chastises opponents to proposed civil rights ordinance, saying comments were ‘hateful.’ “
The conversation went on for three hours. A final vote could come Aug. 19. I’m still predicting passage.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Petty both said they believe the city could provide the administrator of the civil rights program provided in the ordinance without creating a new city job.