For almost four years the City of Fayetteville has fought for its discrimination ordinance. Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against it.
It’s an action that members of the LGBTQ community said is harmful.
“This is a pretty devestating ruling,” said Evalyn Ryos, Northwest Arkansas Equality member.
A city ordinance protecting the lives of LGBTQ community members is gone.
“The way it stands right now in Arkansas, you can be discriminated against just for being gay or lesbian. You can be kicked out of your home, you can be fired, you could be denied public accommodation,” said Ryos.
Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said he is pushing to keep Fayetteville’s protective ordinance.
“When I listened to what the citizens were saying before the ordinance was passed, numerous types of discrimination they had faced as gay or lesbian or transgender people I was concerned. Fayetteville’s my home town I didn’t think that happened here but in fact it had,” Williams said.
Arkansas State Representative Bart Hester was one of the legislators that brought the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
He said the ordinance is unfair for the state and not needed.
“Fayetteville has had this on the books for years now. They don’t have one case filed where they’ve even attempted to try and use it. I think that’s just the reality of it. I think it’s a solution looking for a problem,” Hester said.
“Since the ordinance passed we have not had a single case referred to the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission because I think the employers, the landlords, the shopkeepers realized Fayetteville does not want discrimination against its LGBTQ citizens and so it stopped,” said Williams.
Evalyn Ryos with The NWA Equality Group said the ruling not only harms younger members of the LGBTQ community, but also the future of the Natural State.
“Among the younger generation, people are less afraid to be out, and I think it does create some concern and worries of ‘Is this a place I want to stay and build a career and build a life,'” said Ryos.
Although the ruling is not what Williams had hoped for, he said the fight is far from over.
“No matter what the Attorney General says or the Arkansas Supreme Court says, we don’t want discrimination — we want equality. We want to be a welcoming community, we want a diverse community, and I think that’s what it’s going to be,” said Williams.
Williams said the city will petition for rehearing.
One of the citizens involved in the case said she is disappointed by the hearing, but they are not done yet.
Holly Dickson, legal director of ACLU of Arkansas representing some of the citizens in the case, gave KNWA the following statement:
“We are currently reviewing these decisions and determining our next steps in defending the rights of LGBTQ Arkansans. Importantly, no court has yet decided whether Act 137 was unconstitutionally passed to discriminate against LGBTQ residents, a claim that we will continue to pursue.”