Fayetteville City Council Approves Civil Rights Ordinance

UPDATE: City of Fayetteville has published the final version of "Chapter 119: Civil Rights Administration" as passed by City Council on Thursday.  Click the link above to read it.

FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- In a vote of 6 to 2, the Fayetteville City Council has approved Civil Rights Ordinance 119.

The ordinance ill amend Fayetteville Code to protect the Civil Rights of Fayetteville citizens and visitors and to create a Civil Rights Administrator position for the city. It will Provide anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBT community in regards to housing, public accommodations and employment. The language of the proposed ordinance aims to "protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status."

Ordinance 119, has been a hot button issue since its first reading in July as dozens came to each of the two readings to voice concern to city leaders. Tuesday, the ordinance had its final reading and people from both sides of the debate showed up at Fayetteville City Hall in full force.

"We can't have in this day and age, we need to protect those whose voices you know whose voices are less but are screaming help us," said Camille Rachous, 119 supporter.

"I think this is a bad mistake. I think it's a mistake. It actually overreaches and it reaches out and it usurps the authority over religion that's protected very clearly by the First Amendment," said Bob Ballinger, opposed to 119.

More than 100 people lined up to voice their opinions at the scheduled 5:30 p.m. Tuesday night meeting, which resulted in 10 hours of disscussion ending around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Three amendments were proposed to the ordinance. The first amendment, passed unanimously, would expand an exemption for religious organizations for ceremonies held in chapels and sanctuaries, to also include all tax-exempt property. The second amendment, also passed unanimously, states that no person can enter a men's or women's restroom for any unlawful purpose.That amendment was established in response to concerns by some speakers that certain provisions of ordinance regarding public accommodations could be taken advantage of by people attempting to use bathrooms in a predatory way. The third amendment, and to some the most important considered, a proposal to put the entire ordinance to a referendum majority vote of local citizens. It failed with 6 votes against and only 2 voting in favor, which meant the decision would be made on whether to pass Ordinance 119 at Tuesday night's meeting by the city council.

After all opinions were heard, the council voted, approving Civil Rights Ordinance119 in a 6 to 2 vote.

"I see a day when we don't put tags and labels on people and we're all citizens under the same umbrella of the Constitution of the United States and we all have the same equal rights. I see that... I think it was a real great, public discussion, and everybody was heard... When I come back on Monday, I'm sitting down with the staff and we'll figure out how we're going to implement the Civil Rights Administrator... We'll figure it out. I've got a great staff, great city council, we'll make it happen," said Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

Civil Rights Ordinance 119 will go into effect in 31 days.

YES votes:
Adella Gray - Ward 1
Sarah Marsh - Ward 1
Mark Kinion - Ward 2
Matthew Petty - Ward 2 (ordinance sponsor)
Rhonda Adams - Ward 4
Alan Long - Ward 4

NO votes:
Justin Tennant - Ward 3
Martin Shoppmeyer - Ward 3

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