It’s official. Fayetteville voters will cast ballots “for” or “against” civil rights protections for LGBT residents this fall.
The Washington County Election Commission on Tuesday approved proposed ballot language for the Sept. 8 special election, which will decide the fate of the city’s Uniform Civil Rights Protection Ordinance.
The decision is a win for City Council members, who argued for the same ballot language in last year’s repeal of another civil rights ordinance.
That ordinance was approved in late August, but petitioners with a group called Repeal 119 turned in enough signatures to put the law on hold and force a Dec. 9 special election to uphold or repeal the ordinance.
Petitioners wanted a “For” vote to be used to repeal the ordinance, but Fayetteville aldermen and City Attorney Kit Williams said that could be confusing to voters.
The new ordinance
The new ordinance was approved by aldermen on June 16. As part of that approval, the ordinance will not go into effect unless voters approve the measure in a special election to be held Sept. 8.
If passed, the new law will prohibit business owners and landlords from firing or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It will also provide protections for use of public accommodations, including restrooms.
Churches, religious schools and daycare facilities, and religious organizations of any kind would be exempt from the new law.
Unlike the previous repealed ordinance, the city attorney would not serve as the administrator of complaints. Instead, a Civil Rights Commission would be formed to review and decide complaints of alleged discrimination.
The commission would consist of seven members: two representatives of the business community; two owners or managers of rental property; one representative with experience in human resources or employment law; and two citizens at large, at least one of whom identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Anyone asserting a claim of discrimination would be required to present their claim in writing to the city attorney, who would inform the Civil Rights Commission that a complaint had been received.
Informal and confidential mediation would be attempted by the city before any other enforcement measures could begin. If mediation fails, the commission would schedule a hearing to review the complaint and receive evidence. If the commission determines that discrimination had occurred, the violator would be fined up to $100 for the first offense. Subsequent violations would carry the city’s general penalty which calls for fines of up to $500. A violation would not be considered a misdemeanor or felony.
Early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 1-4 in the Washington County Clerk’s office at 280 N. College Ave. There will be no early voting on Monday, Sept. 7 due to the Labor Day holiday. Both paper ballots and touch-screen machines will be available for early voters.
Polls will open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on election day Tuesday, Sept. 8. There will be no paper ballots on election day. Unlike previous elections, Fayetteville voters may cast ballots at any of the approved polling sites, regardless of their voting precinct.
The Awakening – 5763 E. Mission Blvd.
Baldwin Church of Christ – 4399 Huntsville Road
Buckner Baptist Church – 748 Wyman Road
Central United Methodist Church – 6 W. Dickson St.
Christ’s Church – 525 W. 15th Street
Christian Life Cathedral – 1285 E. Millsap Road
Covenant Church of Christ – 4511 W. Wedington Dr.
First Assembly – 550 E. 15th St.
First United Presbyterian Church – 695 E. Calvin St.
Genesis Church – 205 W. 6th St.
Mt. Comfort Church of Christ – 3249 Mt. Comfort Road
Sang Avenue Baptist Church – 1425 N. Sang Ave.
Sequoyah Methodist Church – 1910 Old Wire Road
St. John’s Lutheran Church – 2730 E. Township Road
Trinity Fellowship – 1100 Rolling Hills Dr.
Trinity Methodist – 1021 W. Sycamore St.
Yvonne Richardson Center – 240 E. Rock St.
For more information about the special election, visit www.co.washington.ar.us.