Res­i­dents protest court de­ci­sion

Rally for Fayet­teville’s Civil Rights Or­di­nance draws 100-plus

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RY­BURN

FAYET­TEVILLE — Pro­test­ers said they got the mes­sage from the Arkansas Supreme Court re­gard­ing the city’s Civil Rights Or­di­nance but wanted to make clear a mes­sage of their own.

“Two, four, six, eight, civil rights will con­quer hate,” rally par­tic­i­pants chanted at the cor­ner of Col­lege Av­enue and Dick­son Street on Fri­day even­ing. Signs, some hand­made and many left over from the Septem­ber 2015 ref­er­en­dum on Or­di­nance 5781, dot­ted the in­ter­sec­tion.

More than 100 peo­ple came out, many of whom had par­tic­i­pated in the For Fayet­teville cam­paign. Madi­son

Beeler of Fayet­teville wore a cas­sock and “funny hat,” the tra­di­tional garb of the clergy, as his stan­dard rally uni­form, he said.

Beeler kept his signs from last time. He had a feel­ing they’d come in use again.

“What we’re fight­ing for is so much more than my cold lit­tle fin­gers right now or how hungry I am be­cause I just got off work,” he said. “This is so much more.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thurs­day ruled the city’s Civil Rights Or­di­nance vi­o­lates a state law, the In­trastate Com­merce Im­prove­ment Act, com­monly known as Act 137. The law calls for uni­form dis­crim­i­na­tion laws statewide set by the state Leg­is­la­ture.

The state House passed the law seven months be­fore Fayet­teville vot­ers ap­proved the Civil Rights Or­di­nance by a 53-47 per­cent mar­gin. An op­po­si­tion group, Pro­tect Fayet­teville, sued and the state in­ter­vened in the lit­i­ga­tion.

The state Supreme Court in an unan­i­mous opin­ion ruled the city’s or­di­nance vi­o­lates the state law. How­ever, the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the state law re­mains in ques­tion and has been thrown back to a lower court for a rul­ing.

Fayet­teville City At­tor­ney Kit Wil­liams said he in­tends to con­tinue to en­force the or­di­nance un­til the Cir­cuit Court makes a de­ci­sion or if the or­di­nance is stayed.

Travis Story, at­tor­ney for Pro­tect Fayet­teville, said he agreed the state Supreme Court didn’t di­rectly void the or­di­nance, but a stay from Cir­cuit Court Judge Doug Martin is the only log­i­cal course of ac­tion.

Story said he couldn’t speak for the state Leg­is­la­ture but is ready to ar­gue the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Act 137. Hav­ing dif­fer­ent or­di­nances on dis­crim­i­na­tion in dif­fer­ent

mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties through­out the state makes it con­fus­ing to ev­ery­one re­gard­less of the side of the ar­gu­ment, he said.

“The other side is try­ing to de­fine some kind of ill in­tent with­out look­ing at the prac­ti­cal, real-world so­lu­tion that’s also there,” Story said.

John Treat, who stood at the north­west cor­ner of the in­ter­sec­tion with his part­ner, Jayme Dohrn, said the uni­for­mity ar­gu­ment doesn’t pass muster. Dif­fer­ent cities have dif­fer­ent sales tax rates, he used as an ex­am­ple.

“The court made the cor­rect rul­ing on what it ruled on, but it had an op­por­tu­nity

to rule on the un­der­ly­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the state statute, which it did not do,” Treat said. “Hope­fully, they will do the right thing and over­turn that statute when it makes its way back up the chain again on ap­peal.”

Dohrn said he moved to Fayet­teville four years ago from Fort Smith in part be­cause he knew his civil rights would be more re­spected. He de­cried “hate leg­is­la­tion,” namely so-called “bath­room bills” re­quir­ing peo­ple to use re­strooms cor­re­spond­ing to

the sex they’re born with.

“It’s time for ev­ery­body to start stand­ing up for civil rights and stop hate leg­is­la­tion,” he said. “This is a great place to live and I want it to stay that way.”

Kati Mc­Far­land, whose per­sis­tent ques­tion­ing of U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-Ark. dur­ing a Town Hall in Spring­dale on Thurs­day made in­ter­net head­lines and lo­cal buzz, said it seemed clear to her the state’s leg­is­la­tors and high­est court in­tended to dis­crim­i­nate.

“No one is ig­no­rant of the rea­sons why,” she said. “You don’t even need a dog whis­tle.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Niki O’Brien of Fayet­teville holds a rain­bow flag Fri­day dur­ing a rally in re­ac­tion to an Arkansas State Supreme Court de­ci­sion Thurs­day find­ing Fayet­teville’s city or­di­nance ex­tend­ing pro­tec­tions to the LGBT com­mu­nity is in vi­o­la­tion of state law.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Kyle Smith (right) of For Fayet­teville gets help Fri­day from El­iz­a­beth Pe­tray (cen­ter) and Blake Pen­ning­ton to assem­ble signs dur­ing a rally in re­ac­tion to an Arkansas State Supreme Court de­ci­sion Thurs­day find­ing Fayet­teville’s city or­di­nance ex­tend­ing pro­tec­tions to the LGBT com­mu­nity is in vi­o­la­tion of state law.

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