A bicoastal plea for equality — North Little Rock, too, in other words | Arkansas Blog

A bicoastal plea for equality — North Little Rock, too, in other words

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I've written that an effort is afoot by City Director Kathy Webb to introduce a civil rights ordinance that includes LGBT people under the protection of Little Rock law, in advance of the effective date of a gay discrimination law just passed by the legislature.

Now comes word of a grassroots drive to encourage North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith to get moving on the north shore, too.

Historically, after all, the arts community has been a welcoming place for diversity in sexual orientation. Smith is working on a plan to build a major arts center in downtown North Little Rock.

V.L. Cox, a noted artist, has mounted the on-line petition drive.  It says, in part:

I am writing to ask you propose a resolution at the next City Council meeting, suspend the rules, and immediately enact an ordinance that North Little Rock will not support discrimination against any its residents from a for-profit business for any reason. Such a resolution is necessary to send a powerful message to the Governor that discrimination of any kind against any person is wrong and that North Little Rock welcomes all of its citizens.

As of April 2013, 434 (88%) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 282 (57%) had policies that include gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The message from these corporations is loud and clear—the quality and dignity of life of their workforce is important to them because happy and healthy employees grow business when they operate in a discrimination-free workplace. Why would any of these corporations want to come to a city where their workforce has to worry about their quality of life?

North Little Rock has an incredibly bright future. I am proud of all the accomplishments under Mayor Hays, this city council, as well as the future of the City under Mayor Smith. However, I am worried that attracting business and industry will become a major challenge with law that basically says the workforce is open-season for discrimination—that North Little Rock tolerates discrimination against some members of the community, that only SOME people are welcome here.



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