Fayetteville, Arkansas, Passes LGBT-Inclusive Nondiscrimination Law

The Fayetteville City Council convened for about 10 hours Tuesday and into Wednesday morning and heard from over 100 people before approving the measure, NWA Online reported.

Supporters of the nondiscrimination law gather at city hall. Courtesy Laura Phillips

During a city council meeting that lasted well into the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaders in Fayetteville, Ark., passed a measure that would establish LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.

Fayetteville is the first city in the state to pass a nondiscrimination law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a report by NWA Online.

The council approved the measure in the early hours of Wednesday morning in a 6-2 vote. The meeting lasted for nearly 10 hours, and more than 100 community members spoke before the council and hundreds packed in the Fayetteville City Hall, according to the report.

The law’s passage comes despite robocalls by 19 Kids and Counting’s Michelle Duggar, asking residents to oppose the measure because she claims it would allegedly endanger women and girls in public restrooms and other facilities. In the robocall, Duggar said the ordinance 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. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination in the areas of public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as gender expression, ethnicity, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic background, and veteran status. It is set to take effect Sept. 20.

Such LGBT nondiscrimination protections do not exist at the state level in Arkansas, as is the case in most other states. Eighteen states plus Washington, D.C., ban discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, and 17 of those states also prohibit discrimination in in public accommodations on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In other states and in cities and counties without such protections, it’s possible to be denied equal housing opportunities or denied goods and services for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. There are some federal workplace protections, although they do not apply clearly to all in the LGBT community. Advocates across the country have been attempting to change the lack of protections in all of these areas by passing local nondiscrimination ordinances.

A message was left with Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s office seeking comment.

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