FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — An anti-discrimination ordinance has been approved in a special election.
Civil Rights Ordinance 5781 passed with 7,666 (53 percent) votes in favor of the measure to 6,860 (47 percent) against it.
The results are unofficial, meaning they’re the first count by the Washington County Election Commission. The official results aren’t expected to be released until later this week.
Civil Rights Ordinance 5781 will extend non-discrimination protections to gender identity and sexual orientation. It would include public accommodations like restaurants and hotels, as well as employment and housing. The LGBT community is not currently protected by federal or state law.
Click here to read the ordinance in full.
Debate about the ordinance has been heated, from significant sign vandalism on both sides, to a lawsuit filed by an anti-ordinance group trying to stop the election.
The lawsuit, filed by the group Protect Fayetteville, claims the City Council sent the issue to a public vote without due process.
But the special election continued as scheduled after a county judge denied Protect Fayetteville’s request, ruling that the lawsuit was filed too late to stop the vote.
After the judge decided to allow the election to proceed, Protect Fayetteville appealed to the State Supreme Court – which hasn’t issued a decision.
Washington County Attorney Steve Zega says that since the ordinance passed, a judge will have to look at those claims, including if the ordinance conflicts with Senate Bill 202 – which bans cities from passing ordinances with LGBT protections.