Judge denies state's motion to stop Fayetteville civil rights ordinance

Posted: September 22, 2017 at 1:05 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Niki O'Brien of Fayetteville holds a rainbow flag Feb. 24 during a rally in reaction to the state Supreme Court decision that found Fayetteville's ordinance extending protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents violates state law.

The city's civil rights ordinance will continue to be enforced pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The laws

Act 137, known as the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, requires businesses, organizations and employers to adhere to uniform nondiscrimination laws throughout the state. In other words, they must follow the state civil rights act, which bars discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. The Legislature passed the law in February 2015 without Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

Ordinance 5781, known as the Fayetteville Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance, affords lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents the right to appeal discrimination, such as being fired from a job or evicted, to the city. Religious institutions and day cares are exempt from the ordinance. Voters approved the referendum in September 2015.

Source: Staff report

The history

The Fayetteville civil rights ordinance debate began in the months leading up to the passage of Ordinance 119 in August 2014. Voters repealed the ordinance in December, then the City Council passed another ordinance in June 2015 that went to voters in September 2015. That referendum passed with a 53 percent majority.

Opposition group Protect Fayetteville sued and the state later intervened. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas intervened on the city’s side.

The Arkansas Supreme Court in February ruled the city’s civil rights ordinance violates Act 137, but justices didn’t address the constitutionality of the act, leaving that question to the lower court.

Source: Staff report

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