Will equal rights prevail in Fayetteville?

The Fayetteville, AR anti-discrimination ordinance 5781 vote is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8.
by Ken Townsend
Senior Editor

An anti-gay group has filed an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding a judge’s decision to allow a vote in Fayetteville, AR on an anti-discrimination ordinance scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“Protect Fayetteville,” a group opposed to a proposed Fayetteville city ordinance 5781 banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has filed an appeal after Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin denied their motion to block next Tuesday’s vote.

The Judge ruled the group filed their motion too late. The group filed the motion claiming the vote was in violation of Arkansas state law.  In early 2015 the Arkansas state legislature passed Act 137 which “prohibits counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions in the state from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances that cover private employment only that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.”  

Danielle Weatherby, a law professor at The University of Arkansas and spokesperson for the group, For Fayetteville, said in an exclusive interview with The Gayly, “I don’t believe the appeal will be successful. I believe the Judge Martin ruled correctly. They can’t come in at the 12th hour on the eve of the election to try and stop it.”

Weatherby went on to further explain that the vote would not create a new protected classification, but would merely extend the existing anti-bullying law now in existence to cover discrimination in the workplace. The new ordinance is different from the anti-discrimination ordinance 119 which anti-LGBT forces successfully repealed last year. 

“I helped with writing the new proposed ordinance and we’ve fixed the problems with 119. I’m cautiously optimistic that Fayetteville will accept this ordinance,” she added.

The Gayly attempted to contact “Protect Fayetteville” for comment, however they have no direct contact information on their website; only that of their attorney.

“For Fayetteville” information – telephone number, email and address - is prominently displayed on their website, www.forfayetteville.com.

Early voting ended today with a reported high voter turnout reported by the Washington County Election Commission. According to the Commission the procedure for voting on Tuesday, September 8 is going to be different than usual.

Election Coordinator, Jennifer Price, said in an interview with Fayetteville’s Channel 5 news there will be 17 voting centers set up throughout the city and anyone can vote at any of the voting centers. They will not have to vote at their precincts.

Turnout for the Tuesday election is also expected to be heavy.

Published, The Gayly – 6:45 CST on Sept. 4, 2015.