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Fayetteville, Arkansas Voters Returned to Ballot Box Over LGBT Civil Rights

Fayetteville, Arkansas Voters Returned to Ballot Box Over LGBT Civil Rights


Voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas once again voted on a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance after repealing a similar ordinance last year.

Once again, voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas got a chance to vote on civil rights protections for LGBT people. The city has ping-ponged back and forth on the issue with an earlier version of the ordinance repealed in a December 2014 referendum.

Fayetteville became the first city in the state to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity in August 2014. In a close election with only 29 percent voter turnout, the ordinance was repealed a few months later following a massive PR campaign by the religious right.

In February of 2015, the Arkansas legislature passed a "religious freedom" bill that prevents cities and counties from protecting the civil rights of LGBT people despite a national outcry. Fayetteville would become the fifth municipality to pass an inclusive ordinance as a challenge to the legislation.

Wal-Mart, headquartered in nearby Bentonville, Arkansas, and rated 90 out of 100 possible points on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, was notably silent about the religious liberties legislation. The company put out a statement of opposition after business hours on the last day possible for Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill. Hutchinson allowed it to become law without his signature.

LGBT workers for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union sent a letter to HRC about Wal-Mart's tepid stance in favor of LGBT protections and asked the LGBT organization to suspend the company's score until they stepped up their support for LGBT rights. The company has also been embroiled in lawsuits alleging discrimination against LGBT people.

Last week The Advocate exclusively reported that Pride At Work, the national LGBT labor organization, passed a binding resolution calling on all labor unions and affiliated organizations to cease funding HRC until the organization addresses issues with the Corporate Equality Index that allows companies like Wal-Mart to get a high score while still treating workers unfairly. If Pride At Work's member unions stopped funding HRC, it would cost the organization an estimated $270,000. Wal-Mart was one of the main culprits cited in Pride At Work's resolution.

The effort to repeal the city's first nondiscrimination law was one of the ugliest anti-LGBT campaigns waged in recent history. The recently disgraced Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame, led the charge to take away sexual orientation and gender identity protections.

Matriarch Michelle Duggar recorded a horribly transphobic robo-call that went out to thousands of residents during the last campaign. Josh Duggar, then a staffer for the vehemently anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council, touted the repeal campaign repeatedly before losing his job in repeated sex scandals involving incest, pedophilia, and adultery. The family, known for their far right religious beliefs and penchant for dabbling in conservative politics, does not live in Fayetteville, but they do reside in Arkansas.

"The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance ... that would allow men -- yes, I said men -- to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas, and other areas that are designated for females only," Duggar said in the robocall.

The vote count was not complete at presstime.

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