FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) – Detractors of the recently-passed anti-discrimination law in Fayetteville can still reverse the ordinance if they can get the issue on a public ballot for a special election. The issue will not make the November general election ballot, though, according to the city attorney.
Opponents of the issue technically have until Aug. 26 to turn in a petition with about 4,100 signatures, thus placing the measure on the general election ballot. Even if those signatures were turned in immediately, though, they would not be able to be certified by the deadline, said City Attorney Kit Williams.
The inability to have a viable petition approved by the deadline next week means the issue will not appear on the November general election ballot, although Williams said the possibility remains open for the measure to show up in a special election.
If opponents of the measure turn in a petition with the correct number of certified signatures by Sept. 22, the issue would kick to a special election to be held at a later date. If voters in such an election were to reject the anti-discrimination law, it would be nullified.
The City Council early Wednesday morning approved an ordinance that would prohibit local businesses from discriminating against someone based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and other factors. It would also prohibit employers from firing someone because of those reasons, as well as ban housing officials from denying someone housing based on those factors.
The decision came after nine hours of discussion of the issue during Tuesday’s council meeting. The ordinance passed by a vote of six to two, with aldermen Justin Tennant and Martin Schoppmeyer voting against the measure.
In addition to prohibiting discrimination by local businesses, the ordinance will create a new position on the city staff that will enforce the ordinance. Anyone cited by this new civil rights administrator could face up to $500 in fines per offense. Anyone refusing to pay the fines could face jail time, according to city leaders.
Several council members said during the meeting they would not be in favor of a public vote because the rights of minorities should not be left up to the majority. They also said they are voted into their positions to make decisions for the city instead of leaving those decisions up to the public.
Tennant spoke out in favor of putting the issue to a public vote, saying the people of Fayetteville should be able to decide whether to adopt what has become a controversial measure for local residents. His suggestion, though, was rejected by the council.
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