Fayetteville Voters Repeal Ordinance 119

Fayetteville Voters Repeal Ordinance 119

STAFF PHOTO ANTHONY REYES • @NWATONYR Supporters of Repeal 119 celebrate an election victory Tuesday, Dec. 9, at a watch party for the Repeal 119 campaign at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fayetteville.

After months of contention for the enactment of a city wide civil rights ordinance, Fayetteville voters repealed the ordinance Tuesday night.

In total, 51.6 percent (7,523) of the 14,569 ballots cast were in favor of the repeal, defeating the 48.3 percent (7,040) of voters against the repeal. Out of the 49,559 registered voters in Fayetteville, 29.4 percent (14,569) participated in the election.

Nearly 10 percent (4,622) of all registered voters cast their ballots in early voting from Dec. 2 to Dec. 9.

The ballots were finished being counted at 8:52 p.m. Peter Loris, chairman of the Washington County Election Commission said 17 boxes of ballots were counted in 40 minutes.

“That was about the fastest I’ve ever seen,” he said.

The ordinance, known as Civil Rights Ordinance 5703, Chapter 119, would essentially — if voted to stay — extend the protected rights guaranteed to citizens in the Arkansas 1964 Civil Rights Act to include the categories of gender identification and gender preference. Namely, it would extend protections to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) — and protect discrimination against perceived socioeconomic background. It also would have extended employment protections for citizens from businesses with 15 or more employees to those with five, said Kit Williams, Fayetteville city attorney.

The Free Weekly reached out to the organizers at Repeal 119, but was not able to get a comment before our print deadline Wednesday morning.

In the aftermath of the ordinance getting defeated, those against repeal lament the repeal of the ordinance.

NWA Media/ J.T. Wampler - Supporters of Fayetteville ordinance 119 console each other Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014. after the effort to repeal  ordinance 119 was successful.

NWA Media/ J.T. Wampler –
Supporters of Fayetteville ordinance 119 console each other Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014. after the effort to repeal ordinance 119 was successful.

“We have a very strong local volunteer and support team who worked hard to try to keep this ordinance in place,” said Anne-Garland Berry, campaign manager for Keep Fayetteville Fair, in a news release. “Fayetteville is a city filled with inclusive, accepting citizens. Unfortunately, the repeal of this ordinance tells our visitors that we do not treat everyone with respect and only allocate freedoms to certain groups of people.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which has been an advocate of the ordinance since the ordinance’s conception in mid-summer, released a statement from Kendra Johnson, the Arkansas state director for the organization.

“(Tuesday’s) vote is a deeply disappointing reminder that equality doesn’t always move forward in a straight line,” she said. “Make no mistake about it, tonight’s election resultsand the repeal of this ordinance—will inflict direct harm on LGBT Arkansans, their families and their friends. But we remain convinced that the progress of fairness will continue despite this result. All Arkansans should have the legal right to live safely within their communities, homes and workplaces, and the day will come soon when LGBT young people will wake up in this state and enjoy true equality under the law. We’ll keep up the fight until that dream is achieved.”

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