Thursday, January 5, 2017

Microcosm: Fayetteville AR nondiscrimination ordinance headed to state's highest court

Greetings from Arkansas
Quite the unnecessary mess!

In September, 2015 the voters of Fayetteville, Arkansas passed a nondiscrimination ordinance. (A year earlier the city council passed, and the voters repealed, a similar ordinance.) The law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Exempted are “"Churches, religious schools and daycare facilities, and religious organizations of any kind.” That “of any kind” gives me pause — but is not at issue at this time. 

Earlier in the year Arkansas legislators, with some help from ADF I suspect, tried to prevent municipalities from passing laws banning discrimination against LGBT people, so they passed Act 137, which says that “political subdivisions” of the State of Arkansas “shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” It is called preemption. It is the same nonsense as in North Carolina's HB2.

In August of 2015 the ordinance was challenged by a Christian group, Protect Fayetteville along with three nominal plaintiffs. They tried to prevent the ballot initiative. At issue is whether or not Arkansas law preempts the local ordinance. The state intervened and the case is now captioned The State of Arkansas and Protect Fayetteville v. City of Fayetteville. Washington County Judge Doug Martin ruled that Act 137 does not preempt the local law and that if it does then it is unconstitutional because the intent is to discriminate against LGBT citizens.

Now the matter is headed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Oral argument is scheduled for February 2.

What I find astonishing (which is probably naivety on my part) is just how fervently the state and Christians are determined to have the legal right to discriminate against their fellow citizens in the 21st century. What they are really after, I think, is their right to demonstrate their disapproval by denying service, employment and housing. It is all rather self-centered and an overt display of self-importance on their part. We do not seek their approval, we do not require their approval. We never have and never will.

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