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Dodging a Bullet

Dodging a Bullet

State's highest court again rejects Fayetteville ordinance

February 6th, 2019 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

Many local residents will recall the bitter fight over the Arkansas-side's M-130 ordinance.

In January 2016, the Texarkana, Ark., Board of Directors passed an non-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

M-130 prohibited discrimination in city employment, city services and also prohibited the city from entering into contracts with those who do discriminate.

Some residents were not pleased. A campaign was mounted to repeal the ordinance, with opponents claiming the ordinance, among other things, would allow men in women's restrooms. It was put to a vote in June and done away by a large majority.

But Texarkana was not the only Arkansas city facing a firestorm on such a ordinance. Fayetteville, a diverse city that is home to the University of Arkansas and the Razorbacks, adopted something similar. But Fayetteville's controversy is playing out in court, not at the ballot box.

You see, Arkansas passed a law in 2015 prohibiting cities and counties from granting protections to those not already covered by state law. Fayetteville claims that law is unconstitutional.

So the battle was on. The Arkansas Supreme Court dismissed the city's challenge two years ago, but then a Washington County judge allowed Fayetteville to keep enforcing the law pending appeal.

Last week, the state Supreme Court unanimously reversed that judge's ruling. Fayetteville can't enforce the ordinance.

Whether the 2015 state law is constitutional has yet to be decided. We will wait and see how that comes out.

In the meantime, we tend to agree with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

"Today's unanimous decisions reaffirm the state's authority to ensure uniformity of anti-discrimination laws statewide and to prevent businesses from facing a patchwork of nondiscrimination ordinances," she said in a prepared statement.

Fayetteville seems agreeable to pressing on with the fight. We are agreeable to letting Fayetteville handle the expense of an extended court battle over this. Texarkana dodged a pricey bullet.

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