US: Arkansas city passes non-discrimination ordinance after 10 hour public discussion
After close to 10 hours of public discussion, an Arkansas city became the first in the state to pass a non-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ordinance allows LGBT people to be included under Fayettville, Arkansas’ civil rights protections.
Fayetteville City Council passed the measure with a 6-2 vote at 3 a.m. on Wednesday.
The measure will appoint a city staff member to investigate complaints from residents who feel they were discriminated against while seeking public accommodations in Fayetteville, including housing and employment.
In comments on the ordinance in the public meeting, The Fayetteville Flyer reports 73 Fayetteville residents and 14 non-residents spoke. Of those individuals, 49 city residents and only one out-of-town resident were in favour of the measure.
The Flyer reported that those speaking against the ordinance said that discrimination is not a problem in Fayetteville.
Nearly 20 people, however, told stories during the public discussion about instances of discrimination they have endured in Fayetteville.
Alderman Matthew Petty, who created the proposal, said in the meeting: “I understand that there may be some fundamental disagreements about whether or not gender identity issues are even issues at all.
“But I think the stories we’ve heard tonight – which have been absolutely courageous in their telling – are evidence that there are issues.
“I don’t think until we had this conversation that most people realized that it was legal in Fayetteville to fire somebody or evict somebody just for being gay. I think it’s important to close that loop.”
A recent Human Rights Campaign survey found rampant LGBT discrimination in Arkansas workplaces, schools, and public establishments, with a fourth of all respondents reporting employment discrimination.