UPDATE: Fayetteville voters have ratified a city civil rights ordinance by a 53-47 vote. The results were announced about 10:15.
The final outcome indicates that opponents outnumbered supporters in election day voting, but a determined early voting campaign gave the For Fayetteville group enough of a margin to see them through the day.
The final vote was 7,666 for and 6,863 against. The total vote was almost identical to the December vote, but with almost a 1,300-vote swing in preference.
The For Fayetteville victory statement:
With the passage of the Uniform Civil Rights Protection Ordinance 5781, Fayetteville has affirmed its place as one of Arkansas’ most welcoming and business friendly communities. After the voters rejected a similar proposal late last year, many citizens of Fayetteville were unwilling to accept that defeat. Instead they reached out to members of the business and faith communities that had expressed concerns and worked with them to forge a fair consensus. Ordinance 5781 is the winning result.
“I am really impressed to see our community come together after the divisive 119 fight and pass ordinance 5781,” said Kyle Smith, For Fayetteville campaign chairman. “It turns out that local solutions work best.”
“We started from a small group of folks who wanted to see a nondiscrimination ordinance pass after 119 was defeated,” Smith said. “Through the drafting process and then after the city council decided to put 5781 to a vote, I was amazed at how our campaign grew with more and more local volunteers and donors pitching in every day. We had substantially fewer resources this time, but ran a much better and more positive campaign this time.”
“I want to thank the city council members who sponsored and voted for 5781 – Adella Gray, Matthew Petty, Sarah Marsh, Mark Kinion Alan Long, and Justin Tennant and our Mayor, Lionel Jordan, as well as some local organizations like the NWA Center for Equality and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce for their endorsements,” Smith said. We also thank the 415 Fayetteville businesses and 22 faith leaders who pledged their support to equality and 5781.”
“I especially want to thank Natural State Strategies for their guidance in creating a strategy and a campaign structure that allowed us to win. They allowed our campaign to reflect the best that is Fayetteville.””
Here’s what I wrote earlier tonight:
Tabulation of the early vote and absentees in the special election in Fayetteville on a city civil rights ordinance has been completed, and the Fayetteville Flyer reports the ordinance was favored by these voters 68-32.
Early estimates on complete tallies were put around 9:30 p.m.
The ordinance was passed by the City Council and referred to voters as a new, and more popularly supported, effort at a civil rights ordinance that extended protections to LGBT people after a referendum late last year repealed an earlier attempt.
The ordinance was toned down, with more religious exceptions and a mediation process for complaints that would lead, at most, to small fines for an offense not even considered a misdemeanor. The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, a leading opponent of the first ordinance, got on board this time.
The same coalition of conservative evangelical churches opposed the ordinance again. Instead of Duggar family robocalls, the opponents used robocalls today from Baptist pastor H.D. McCarty, once known as the pastor of the Razorbacks, who raised the old, tired and largely discredited complaint that the ordinance was about allowing transgender women to use women’s restroom.
The earlier civil rights ordinance also led in early voting — 2,593 to 2,024 — but the repeal ended up prevailing by 483 votes out of 14,500 cast.
Today, the vote for equality in early voting was 2,830 to 1,324 in early voting, a slightly lower total than in December. But a 1,500 vote margin will be harder to overcome than a 569 vote margin as in December.
We’ll be staying in touch. People will be circulating to the 17 polls to look for tallies at each precinct posted when machines are closed out. Sometimes that leads to unofficial tallies ahead of the official Election Commission count.
Opponents sued to stop the election. They failed to get an injunction when Judge Doug Martin said they’d waited too late, the day before voting began. But the lawsuit remains alive. Opponents say they will continue to challenge the process by which the ordinance reached the ballot and also to argue, if it passes, that a state law passed by anti-gay legislators prohibited cities from passing such ordinances. Several lawyers, including Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams, have said both statutory and constitutional grounds exist for defending the Fayetteville ordinance against the legislation sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester and other anti-gay legislators. Hester was among many anti-gay people who live outside Fayetteville but have tried to influence the election because it represents a setback in Northwest Arkansas to their cause. Fayetteville Republican Rep. Charlie Collins has been a prominent supporter of laws protecting legal discrimination against gay people. He’s discussed a potential race for mayor in the future against incumbent Lioneld Jordan, who’s been a champion of the ordinance.
Little Rock, Maumelle, North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Garland County and Eureka Springs have all passed various expressions of support for equal treatment of sexual minorities.
Said the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality after the victory:
“Today the people of Fayetteville voted for acceptance over fear and showed that cities can ensure religious freedom while protecting the rights of each and every citizen. People from all walks of life chose to lead Fayetteville and Arkansas toward a more inclusive future. History will remember this as a proud moment when businesses, religious leaders and everyday citizens worked together to unite our community, grow our economy and finally move Fayetteville forward.
We are grateful for the leadership of Aldermen Adella Gray, Matthew Petty, Sarah Marsh, Mark Kinion, Alan Long, and Justin Tennant; Mayor Lioneld Jordan; the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce; the For Fayetteville campaign and all who worked tirelessly to support this ordinance. We are honored to stand beside them in the fight for full equality.”