Ralliers Lament Repeal

Ralliers Lament Repeal
Staff Photo Ashleigh Price Community members came together the evening of Saturday Dec. 20 outside the Fayetteville Chamer of Commerce building to reflect upon the repeal of Ordinance 119.

Staff Photo Ashleigh Price
Community members came together the evening of Saturday Dec. 20 outside the Fayetteville Chamer of Commerce building to reflect upon the repeal of Ordinance 119.

As families gathered around the square to view the Lights of the Ozarks, a group of mournful Fayettevillians gathered just a half-block away at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce for a light show of their own. Organized as a chance for individuals to express grievance after the recent repeal of Ordinance 119, this peaceful rally included live guitar music and song, bold posters, speakers and a candlelight ceremony.

“The purpose of tonight, is that we just had the civil rights ordinance which had been passed back and forth,” said Justine Turnage, one of the rally’s organizers. “It was successfully repealed in a public vote and this meant a lot to all of us. It meant a lot to the people who needed the protections, and it meant a lot to our friends and family who are affected by us not having the protections.”

After opening statements, rally members moved into the center of a participant-formed circle. One-by-one they shared stories of how the recent campaign results had affected them.

One speaker said that the repealed ordinance meant less safety and less protection for her family. The speaker’s partner had been fired from a job after her employer found out about her homosexual identity. Others expressed fear that they could be fired at any time for similar reasons.

Space discrimination in public housing was also discussed. One speaker described their apartment as a shell and as a safe-place. However, after finding her landlord’s name on the petition for the repeal ballot, the speaker has feared loss of comfort and loss protection in her only safe zone.

Turnage later said that the passing of Ordinance 119 would have been “a symbol that our city was willing to stand up behind us and ensure that we have the ability to live comfortable lives.”

Another speaker stepped into the circle to discuss fear in a different manner.

“We deserve protection from the big bad wolf which hides behind fear and goes by the name discrimination,” they said.

Officials of the Fayetteville’s Chamber of Commerce were some of the most prominent opponents of the recent Ordinance 119.

“Their policies are simply not acceptable, especially going into 2015. We’re here tonight to send a message,” said Turnage. “This is a beginning, not the end. ”

Others at the rally said they need a new civil rights movement as soon as possible.

A speaker from the Civil Rights Roundtable, an organization that stands for fighting discrimination, said, “It has been a rough four months, and the people most in need of these protections have been subjected to increased abuse through that time. The right time for rights is right now. This is not the end of legal protections in Fayetteville, it’s a new beginning of a movement.”

Participants wrote letters to the commerce in hopes of gaining both personal protection and equality. They hope to provide evidence that discrimination does indeed exist in Fayetteville. Letters will be delivered to the commerce on Monday, Dec. 22.

After sharing personal experiences, participants each held a lit candle. The group joined in 119 seconds of silence to show respect for those whose lives may have been effected by the Dec. 9 repeal.

City Attorney Kit Williams recently drafted a new civil rights ordinance that will add sexual orientation to the types of discrimination prohibited in the 1993 Civil Rights Act. While it will exempt churches, it also won’t cover gender identity, because Williams said, federal case law appears to prohibit discrimination on gender identity as part of laws prohibiting gender discrimination.

“Fayetteville is a wonderfully tolerant and accepting city,” Williams said in a memo, “but for the rare occasions when the sting of discrimination lashes out against our gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and co-workers, we should have a simple and straightforward ordinance that places Fayetteville on the side of equality, justice, love and inclusion.”

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