The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce said on Saturday that Protect Fayetteville, the group organizing against that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, is unfairly using an edited letter on Chamber letterhead to imply that the Chamber is opposed to Ordinance 5781.
In fact, the Chamber publicly supports Ordinance 5781, the civil rights measure that will be sent to voters in Fayetteville on September 8. The Chamber did oppose a previous version of the ordinance, 119, which was narrowly rejected by a popular vote in December 2014. The business group says the new ordinance has corrected the problems it identified in 119.
Recently, Protect Fayetteville has been circulating an edited version of a 2014 letter from the Chamber. It’s confusing, to say the least. The letter begins with the following header:
Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Letter Revisited
By: Protect Fayetteville
Then: The logo of the Chamber. Then, an italicized statement from Protect Fayetteville about why the new ordinance is as bad as or worse than the old, which includes this passage: “The following
resolution was made public in 2014 by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and is seen in black print. Protect Fayetteville has done a review of this resolution and compared the Chamber’s criticisms of objectionable details of 119 to the same details found in 5781, which is seen in red print.”
Then, the Chamber’s letter — from last year — interspersed with commentary from Protect Fayetteville — in red text. The Chamber’s letterhead continues to appear on each page.
The Chamber is not pleased. Here’s their press release from yesterday:
The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce has endorsed and supports the passage of Ordinance 5781, the Fayetteville Civil Rights Ordinance. The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce urges voters to go to the polls and vote “Yes” on election day,September 8, 2015.
It has come to our attention that a letter previously issued in 2014, noting the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to the previous civil rights ordinance, known as Chapter 119, is being used by the Protect Fayetteville campaign. The letter, written on Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce letterhead, has been edited by Protect Fayetteville and is posted on the Protect Fayetteville website. It is unfairly misleading, using our logo and prior publication, to imply that the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is opposed to Ordinance 5781.
Ordinance 5781 corrected the problems that the Chamber identified in Chapter 119. We believe Ordinance 5781 is good for business and economic development, and reflects the welcoming, diverse community we enjoy in Fayetteville.
In a press release, For Fayetteville, which is the group campaigning for Ordinance 5781, praised the Chamber for its ongoing support and for speaking out against the misleading letter:
FAYETTEVILLE – For Fayetteville, the campaign to pass the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance #5781, values the continued support of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, and would like to thank them for responding to the “misleading” information from the opposing campaign, Protect Fayetteville.
“We’re glad to have the support of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce in this effort to pass equal protections for everyone,” said Kyle Smith, chairman of the For Fayetteville campaign. “The Chamber knows #5781 will help grow our economy and attract new businesses who value their employees and customers. Since our campaign started, nearly 400 Fayetteville businesses have signed a pledge to support #5781, because they know it’s good for business.”
From the beginning the For Fayetteville campaign has been working with the Chamber of Commerce and others who opposed Chapter 119, but now support #5781
“When we started drafting ordinance #5781, we started with the Chamber’s list of concerns from Chapter 119,” Smith said. “They released a letter last year, so we went through one by one and found a solution that works for everyone. As voters, business owners, and other community leaders read and learn about #5781, they realize it makes sense for Fayetteville and strikes the right balance to protect LGBT rights while respecting religious freedoms. Discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation is bad for business and has no place in our town. We thank the Chamber of Commerce for standing with us.”
The group opposed to ordinance #5781, Protect Fayetteville, posted a letter to their website entitled “Chamber Letter Revisited” which uses the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s letterhead and logo. The letter was in no part written by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. This morning the Chamber of Commerce released a statement to the media announcing their endorsement of #5781 and characterized the Protect Fayetteville letter as “unfairly misleading.”
Early voting for ordinance #5781 will occur at the County Courthouse September 1-4. Election Day is Tuesday, September 8. Please visit www.forfayetteville.com for more information on the ordinance and voting procedures.