Circuit Court Judge Upholds Fayetteville Civil Rights Ordinance

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Washington County Circuit Court judge upheld Fayetteville’s civil rights ordinance Tuesday (March 1).

The civil rights ordinance extends anti-discrimination protections to LGBT residents and visitors in matters of employment, housing and public services. It went into effect in November.

Judge Doug Martin issued summary judgements on several points made by the plaintiffs and defendants.

Protect Fayetteville, a group that campaigned against the ordinance, filed the lawsuit on Sept. 1 naming the City of Fayetteville, Fayetteville’s mayor and all of the city’s City Council members as defendants.

The lawsuit claims the City Council vote to hold a special election on Ordinance 5781 was illegal, but in his summary judgement Judge Martin writes the law allowed the mayor to cast a vote to suspend the rules and proceed with a third reading of the proposed civil rights ordinance, which sent it to a special election.

The lawsuit also claimed the passage of Ordinance 5781 violated the constitutional rights of the voters who repealed a similar ordinance in December 2014. The judge ruled that claim has no merit.

In the lawsuit the plaintiffs claimed the use of taxpayer funds for a special election Ordinance 5781 was an illegal exaction and should’ve been prohibited. In his summary judgement, the judge sided with the defendants.

Finally, Protect Fayetteville claimed the civil rights ordinance violates a state law known as Act 137, or the Intrastate Commerce Act. The law was passed during the 2015 legislative session and prohibits municipalities from extending anti-discrimination protections beyond those already afforded by state law.

The defendants argued gender identity and sexual orientation are protected by state laws like a statute called “Antibullying policies” and the Arkansas Domestic Peace Act, therefore the civil rights ordinance would not violate Act 137.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argued the only protect classes are those in the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, which doesn’t include gender identify and sexual orientation.

In his summary judgement, Judge Martin again sided with the defendants.

Another claim the lawsuit makes is that the civil rights ordinance violates the Arkansas Constitution because it intentionally omits “the protection of the right of conscience,” but the judge sided with the defendants in his summary judgement.

Finally, the plaintiffs argued Ordinance 5781 deprives people of their rights, privileges and immunities by denying them the protect classification of freedom of religion. Once again, the judge ruled in favor of the defendants.

To read the full summary judgement, click here.

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