The Hot Springs Board of Directors voted last night to pass an ordinance which would extend anti-discrimination protections to include LGBT city workers, and require any vendors who contract with the city to do the same. The ordinance is similar to one passed last month by the Little Rock board.
The vote was 6-1 in favor of the ordinance, which is designated Ordinance O-15-16 on the board agenda. Hot Springs Mayor Ruth Carney was reportedly the lone vote against the ordinance, which will go into effect in 30 days.
Previously, ordinance sponsor and city board member Becca Clark had told KUAR that citizens of Hot Springs had been talking to her about an LGBT protection ordinance. Clark said the fact that Act 137 — which prevents municipalities from codifying protections for any group not already protected by the state, including LGBT people — will go into effect this summer gave her “a sense of urgency that we need to do something right now.”
Several LGBT rights groups working in the state have issued statements praising the vote. The Human Rights Campaign called the new ordinance “a tremendously important step forward in the fight for inclusiveness and equality under the law,” with HRC Arkansas director Kendra R. Johnson linking ordinance to Mike Huckabee’s announcement yesterday that he was entering the race for president.
“Mike Huckabee has a virtually unrivaled record of opposing equality for LGBT Americans among presidential candidates, and Hot Springs courageously overshadowed his campaign announcement by taking a meaningful step forward for equality in the Natural State,” Johnson said in a release. “The city’s decision to protect residents by passing a non-discrimination ordinance is what Arkansas’ true future is all about. Arkansans want to move forward, not backward, and their commitment to that principle was on full display in the right-to-discriminate fight with Governor Hutchinson and the Legislature earlier this year.”
Tippi McCullough, president of the Stonewall Democrats, also released a statement praising the vote in Hot Springs, saying: “The Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas is pleased that another Arkansas city has passed a nondiscrimination ordinance. Last night the Hot Springs City Board of Directors overwhelmingly passed a NDO, that mirrors the one passed in Little Rock, by a vote of 6-1. We are especially grateful to City Director Becca Clark who provided the leadership to get the NDO passed. This is another step toward equality in Arkansas and another sign to business leaders that Arkansas is open for business in cities, counties, and communities that pass these nondiscrimination ordinances. We are hopeful that many other cities will also pass this ordinance to show that discrimination will not be tolerated while doing business with them.”