FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) - Supporters of Fayetteville’s Civil Rights Ordinance kicked off their campaign against repealing it on Thursday (Nov. 13).
The rally was organized by a group called Keep Fayetteville Fair, which backs Ordinance 119. The Fayetteville City Council passed the ordinance in August, but opponents collected enough signatures to force a special election, which will be held on Dec. 9. The ordinance bans discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender in hiring practices and real estate transactions and creates an administrator position to enforce the ordinance. The ordinance cannot be enforced until the outcome of the special election.
Keep Fayetteville Fair held the campaign rally at Fresco Cafe to advocate against the ordinance's repeal.
“We want to show everybody that our campaign is on the ground,” said Matthew Petty, a Fayetteville City Council member, who supports the ordinance. “We are ready, we are working hard, we are knocking doors, we are making phone calls. And, we are ready to win this.”
However, those for the repeal of Ordinance 119 say campaigning won't change the outcome of the upcoming election.
“It is totally unnecessary, and not something the people of Arkansas, or certainly the Fayetteville area, believe in,” said Bart Hester, an Arkansas State Senator, who supports the group Repeal 119.
Hester said those who want to repeal 119 question the measure's legality.
“The significant issue with 119, is that they have put the burden of proof on the accused,” Hester said. “So, you are guilty until proven innocent. That is un-American. And, I don`t think the people of Fayetteville will stand for that.”
“The legal challenges to the ordinance, most of them are just false on their face,” Petty said. “They are just absolutely made up. It requires a judicial process for any result.”
At the event, Keep Fayetteville Fair announced campaign initiatives and goals. One of them is taking their message to the streets.
“I think that it shows that we are on the right side of history,” Petty said. “And, that Fayetteville supports what we are trying to do.”
The Repeal 119 group has also taken their campaign to the streets.
“I think there is no doubt in my mind that an overwhelming majority of the Fayetteville area will come out to repeal that ordinance,” Hester said.
On Nov. 7, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce recommended the repeal of Ordinance 119. Click here to read the Chamber's statement.
On Nov. 12, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart also issued statements voicing opposition to the Chamber of Commerce resolution. Click here to read the mayor's and chancellor's letters.