A city civil rights ordinance that includes protection for sexual orientation and gender identity will be presented at the Little Rock City Board agenda meeting Tuesday. It will cover city employees and also those companies that want to do business with the city.
Talking points: It’s an advancement, though perhaps not as much as many civil rights advocates might prefer. But it is likely the only thing passable by this board at this time. It will take six votes. There are 10 board members plus the mayor. It is an ordinance, too, not merely an empty resolution.
As luck had it, I talked with City Director Brad Cazort on the phone earlier today on an unrelated matter and asked him about the likelihood of the city passing a civil rights ordinance. He expressed doubt because of the recent state law that prohibits cities and counties from passing civil rights ordinances that protect people not protected in state law. State law doesn’t extend coverage to sexual minorities. Cazort also said that, while he didn’t support employment discrimination against LGBT people, that he was reluctant for impose a city law covering them on private interests. City Directors Lance Hines and Gene Fortson have also made public comments resistant to civil rights protection in the past. Mayor Mark Stodola opposed the state law on behalf of the Municipal League, but has been mostly muted on the issue.
The Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s full-throated support for non-discrimination today perhaps might move some of those typical in the thrall of the business community.
The agenda meeting is at 4 p.m. Tuesday. It is to set the agenda for the meeting April 21.
Another talking point for the ordinance is that, while sexual minorities will be a focus, it provides new city protection against discrimination on other grounds — race, age, gender, disability and the like. The argument is that city government is more accessible than state or federal government if, for example, a city employee had a racial complaint.
The new state law, which will take effect July 22, 90 days after the official end of the legislative session, invalidates any laws passed contrary to its intent. So far, only Eureka Springs has such an ordinance. It will be challenged in a repeal referendum. May 12. Fayetteville had such an ordinance, but voters repealed it. The Fayetteville ordinance prompted Sen. Bart Hester’s bill, which became law with the governor’s tacit approval. He didn’t sign it, but he didn’t say he opposed it.
The narrative provided city directors on the ordinance notes that it codifies the city’s own practice in terms of employment non-discrimination (the state law doesn’t prohibit local governments from passing non-discrimination policies) but also prohibits discrimination in vending practices. That is, a private company wishing to do business with the city must agree to abide by non-discrimination rules. This is significant and it would be in law, not merely an encouraging resolution.
City Director Kathy Webb, new to the board, has been working on such an ordinance since taking office and is widely considered a force behind it, but she is not listed as a sponsor. Rather, it is listed as a proposal from the city manager.
City Manager Bruce Moore’s commentary:
The City of Little Rock has long had a policy of non-discrimination in its hiring procedures. The City does not permit consideration of race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, genetic information, political opinions or political affiliation to be a basis to deny employment. The federal standards include gender identity discrimination as a prohibited practice.
This ordinance affirmatively states this practice for City hiring, as well as for the companies with which the City co-tracts to do business. In other words, in response to a competitive City bid the bidder will have to affirm that it will not discriminate in violation of this ordinance.
I’ve sought comments from the board.
UPDATE: Said Webb:
I am in 100% support of the ordinance that will be discussed at the agenda meeting next Tuesday. The Little Rock I know is a welcoming and diverse community, and passage of this ordinance is a positive and substantive statement both to our citizens and to those companies who are considering doing business here. I hope that we can get broad community support and that we can secure the needed votes to pass. The statement from the Downtown Partnership today, and the remarks from Walmart, Acxiom, the LR Chamber of Commerce, LR Convention and Visitors Bureau, and others during the debate on HB1228 underscore, in my opinion, both the broad-based support as well as the need for this ordinance.
Stonewall Democratic Caucus President Tippi McCullough comments:
The Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas praises the City of Little Rock for taking the next step towards equality for all of its citizens by proposing a non-discrimination ordinance. This ordinance provides protection for the people of Little Rock, the businesses of Little Rock, and the economic growth of Little Rock. It will make our city an even more desirable place to live and do business. We urge the Little Rock City Directors to vote yes for this ordinance.
Gene Fortson, via Facebook message;
Max. Am out of town and have not seen language yet, but barring something unexpected in it, I will support it. Gene
Director Ken Richardson
It would be premature for me to comment on an ordinance that I haven’t seen yet. However, I’m supportive of any legislation that preempts and counters discrimination! Given the history of our state, I don’t want us to have anything perfunctory on the books!
The full ordinance follows:
AN ORDINANCE TO DECLARE THE POLICY OF THE CITY OF LITTLE ROCK ON ISSUES NOT TO BE CONSIDERED IN HIRING; TO DECLARE THE POLICY ON COMPANIES WITH WHICH THE CITY CONTRACTS; TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, pursuant to the City of Little Rock Administrative Personnel Policy and Procedure Manual, it is the policy of the City not to discriminate in its employment and personnel practices because of a person’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation; and,
WHEREAS, the City seeks to insure that its employees with responsibility for contracting with vendors do not discriminate against vendors because of the race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation of the vendors’ owners; and,
WHEREAS, the City seeks to insure that its employees, in providing City services to the public and public accommodations, do not discriminate because of the race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation; and,
WHEREAS, the City seeks to encourage businesses and firms it does business with to adopt employment practices and to make sales and provide services to the public without discrimination;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE CITY OF LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS:
Section 1. The City of Little Rock shall not discriminate against vendors because of the race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation of the vendors’ owners. All City departments, divisions, commissions and offices that contract with vendors shall adopt a written policy that reflects such non-discrimination in contracting.
Section 2. Employees of the City of Little Rock in providing City services to the public and public accommodations shall not discriminate because of race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation. All City departments, divisions, commissions and offices shall adopt a written policy that reflects such non-discrimination in providing City services.
Section 3. All contracts providing goods and services to the City of Little Rock shall contain a clause stating that the contracting party shall not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. All bid and proposal requests for such contracts from the City of Little Rock shall include notification of such a clause and the requirement that it be agreed to and followed.
Section 4. Repealer. All laws, ordinances, resolutions, or parts of the same, that are inconsistent with the provisions of this resolution, are hereby repealed to the extent of such inconsistency.
Section 5. Severability. In the event any title, section, paragraph, item, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this resolution is declared or adjudged to be invalid or unconstitutional, such declaration or adjudication shall not affect the remaining portions of the resolution which shall remain in full force and effect as if the portion so declared or adjudged invalid or unconstitutional were not originally a part of the resolution.
Section 6. Emergency Clause. It is important that the City not discriminate in the hiring of individuals to work for the City as employees, and to assure that it is does not indirectly discriminate in the hiring of individuals to work on City contracts; to assure to the extent possible than no such discrimination exists is essential to the public health, safety and welfare; an emergency is, therefore, declared to exist and this ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of its passage.