Fayetteville City Council approves new LGBT protection ordinance, referendum set for Sept. 8 | Arkansas Blog

Fayetteville City Council approves new LGBT protection ordinance, referendum set for Sept. 8

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Tonight, by a vote of 6 to 2, the Fayetteville City Council approved a new LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance, which you can read here, would extend employment, housing and public accommodation protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within the city limits of Fayetteville. It will not take effect unless approved by voters at a special election Sept. 8.  

The votes against the ordinance tonight came from John LaTour and Martin W. Schoppmeyer Jr.

The vote, which happened just before 10 p.m. was proceeded by hours of public comment, in which those who lived in Fayetteville were given priority to speak. Speakers were allowed the floor for one minute, with council members being allowed to ask one question of each speaker.

Just before the vote, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan delivered a moving comment in favor of the ordinance, saying the issue was important to him, and that he was determined to support LGBT rights even if it costs him votes in the next election. Jordan went on to speak of his childhood. Raised in poverty in a small house with no running water, he said that when he was growing up, the family's one treat was a simple sugar cookie his mother made. At his house, he said, the cookies were kept in a Folger's coffee can. At his grandmother's house, he said, the same cookies were kept in a fancier cookie jar. Both cookies, he said, tasted just as good no matter where they came from, because it was what was inside the container that was the important thing. Speaking of LGBT people, Jordan said: "We have spent too much time looking at the container."

"We have two forces at work here," Jordan said. "One is love and one is fear. I will not sacrifice my stand on equality for anyone. It may cost me the next election but I am willing to pay the price."

Voters repealed the previous LGBT protection Ordinance 119 in December 2014 by a margin of 52 to 48 percent, following an often ugly campaign. 

Though the new ordinance is similar in impact, it has many changes, including the formation of a commission to consider complaints, where before a single city official would have considered complaints under the previous ordinance. Mediation will be the first course after a complaint. If the issue can't be resolved, the commission will hear the complaint, with violators facing fines of $100 for a first offense. Churches, religious schools and religious organizations would be exempt.  


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