City Council Makes Revisions to Proposed Civil Rights Ordinance

FAYETTEVILLE, AR-- A new civil rights ordinance on the agenda is causing a few sparks in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville City Council members addressed a bill Tuesday that would create a new Civil Rights Administrator, responsible for protecting people from discrimination.

Dozens of people spoke at the meeting, most of whom opposed the legislation, saying it was too broad and would infringe on first amendment rights.

"What we're against is having an arbitrary set of rules to determine who has the right to believe what they believe in," says Jeremy Flanagan, Pastor at Pathway Baptist Church.

Others voiced support for the bill. "This is a very strange response to a very fair and carefully crafted piece of legislation that I think our city really could benefit from having this," said Gladys Tiffany, OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Equality.

The Fayetteville City Council is tweaking the bill and will have a third and final reading at the next meeting on August 19.

UPDATE: Alderman, Sarah Marsh, said "The mayor intends to appoint an existing staff member to serve in the role of administrator." Under the new new ordinance, "They would evaluate to see if the claims had merit. If so, they would forward that to the city prosecutor's office for further investigation."

Marsh said, "We listened for almost three hours to public input, and as well as the advice from our city attorney."

City attorney, Kit Williams, said "I do recommend it be made as good as possible before you actually come to a final vote."

A revision was made, and religious institutions are now exempt from the measure.

Marsh said, "Say a denomination that was opposed to same-sex marriage, they would in no way be obligated to host a same-sex marriage in their wedding chapel."

With the changes, Marsh says the ordinance can properly protect the public. "I think we've done a good job of protecting religious liberty, while also protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens."

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