Openly opposing the rights of gay and trans people is increasingly seen as a losing prospect for business-minded leaders — just look at Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent decision to come out, or Walmart’s extension of benefits to same-sex couples. Not so in Fayetteville, whose Chamber of Commerce is now urging voters to repeal the landmark civil rights ordinance passed by the Fayetteville city council in August.
Opponents of the ordinance gathered enough signatures to force a popular referendum on the issue in a special election this December. It’ll come down to turnout, and the effort to rally the conservative troops against the ordinance is well-organized. The arguments mounted against the ordinance have evolved from scaremongering over male sexual predators lurking in womens’ bathrooms to include a litany of more technical complaints. But it’s clear what really fuels the opposition at core: objections to guaranteeing equal rights to LGBT people.
Now the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for repeal of the ordinance. Their press release is careful to stick to technical objections, rather than the principles underlying the law:
The Chamber will encourage its members and the public to “Vote for Repeal of Ordinance 5703 Chapter 119” on December 9, 2014 the date of the special referendum election on this ordinance.
The Chamber submits to voters that it is never good public policy for any governmental entity to adopt rules, regulations, ordinances or laws that are vague, incomplete, fail to include critical definitions for prohibited acts or conduct that may be later be adjudged as criminal; base criminal prosecution on the basis of another’s “perception” of conduct, verbal or non verbal communication or attitude or that have not been completely and thoroughly debated and reviewed.
Fayetteville resident Ebony Buckley took on some of these arguments in a guest column for the Times a few weeks ago. All I can say is — I’m sure the Chamber would equally welcome a public referendum on any number of other issues of “good public policy,” from state tax cuts that favor niche industry interests to municipal planning decisions about property development.
Max points out a connection (and the presence of people like UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart as chamber “ex officio board members”):
Steve Clark, the former Arkansas attorney general driven from elective politics by his conviction for expense account fraud, is president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. His son-in-law, Juston Tennant, was one of two Fayetteville council members who opposed the non-discrimination ordinance. Tennant is expected to run for mayor in two years against Lioneld Jordan, a backer of the ordinance.
Here’s the list of board members from the chamber’s website. Presumably, “ex officio” members of the Chamber Board are not included in the “unanimous” vote.
Board of Directors
2014 Fayetteville Chamber Officers & Board of Directors
William L. Bradley – Washington Regional Medical Center
Tony Uth – HoganTaylor
G. Brock Gearhart – Greenwood Gearhart Inc.
Alex Baldwin – State Farm Insurance – Alex Baldwin
Chuck Browning – Acumen Brands
Dr. Holly Anderson – Uptown Eyes
Jeff Pederson – Lindsey Company
Scott Hancock – Centennial Bank
David Russell – First Security Bank
James Smith – Smith Hurst, PLC
Keith Kaderly – Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation
Rich Davis – SourceGas
Bo Bittle – Stephens Inc.
Tommy Hyde – Walmart Optical Lab 9149
William H. Waite – Dickson Street Liquor
Blake Woolsey – Mitchell Communications Group
Lisa Darling – Silpada, Lisa Darling
Dan Hendrix – Arkansas World Trade Center
Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson – Northwest Arkansas Community College
Judge Marilyn Edwards – Washington County Judge
Dr. G David Gearhart – Chancellor of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Mary Ann Greenwood – Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Mayor Lioneld Jordan – Mayor of Fayetteville, AR
Dr. Peter Kohler – UAMS Northwest
Dick Trammel – Arvest Bank & AR State Highway Commission
Scott Van Laningham – NWA Regional Airport
Bootsie Ackerman – Congressman Steve Womack, 3rd District, AR