Mayor, UA chancellor object to Fayetteville Chamber's stance on civil rights ordinance | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mayor, UA chancellor object to Fayetteville Chamber's stance on civil rights ordinance

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM

click to enlarge NO NOTICE: Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he got no notice of the Fayetteville chamber board meeting at which an anti-civil rights resolution was adopted. He'd have attended and objected, he said.
  • NO NOTICE: Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he got no notice of the Fayetteville chamber board meeting at which an anti-civil rights resolution was adopted. He'd have attended and objected, he said.
Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Geahart have written the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce to ask it to rescind its opposition to the city's new civil rights ordinance, which will be subject of a referendum Dec. 9.

I'd unsuccessfully sought a comment from Gearhart Nov. 7 (I finally got it after noon today) because he's an ex officio member of the Chamber's board and the UA has its own non-discrimination policy on sexual orientation. Jordan was an outspoken supporter of the ordinance when the Council adopted it. The Fayetteville ordinance covers several categories, including gender and race, but is controversial because it includes protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Chamber said its board voted unanimously for the opposition resolution, but Gearhart and Jordan said it was never put to ex officio board members. Jordan wrote a separate letter, according to this report in the Fayetteville Flyer. 

Jordan, too, said he'd not been notified of a board meeting and would have attended had he known to object. He said the ordinance would be good for economic development. 

Gearhart wrote:

I would like to respectfully ask that the Chamber of Commerce board of directors rescind its recent action regarding the civil rights ordinance.

Although I serve as an ex-officio member of the board, I was never invited to offer my opinion on the decision to issue a statement about the ordinance. Likewise, other ex-officio members were denied the opportunity to address the issue. However, your media release indicated that the action was unanimously endorsed by the board members. Such a statement created the impression that I was in concurrence with your action.

The failure to include all ex-officio members in the discussion contributes to the perception that the board operated under a veil of secrecy and was opposed to any divergent views. Such a perception undermines the ability of the board to demonstrate that it consistently functions within the best traditions of our city which embraces openness and fair play.

Many people favor allowing the citizens of Fayetteville to decide the issue at the ballot box in December, rather than having pressure exerted by the Chamber. If, indeed, the law is vague and  too broad, the court system of Arkansas will clarify the law in due course.

This has become a flash point issue for our city. The Chamber should promote harmony and prosperity, not create crisis. This has strained relations among town, gown, and individual  citizens. 

Steve Clark, the convicted felon who leads the Chamber, gave a news conference last week at which he outlined what he believed to be shortcomings in the ordinance. (Background: His son-in-law Justin Tennant is believed to be planning a mayoral challenge to Jordan in 2016.)

The Fayetteville Flyer has posted an audio recording of Clark's announcement. He's practicing law with the same acumen he exhibited in cheating taxpayers with false expense claims while attorney general.

Clark said:

* Federal and state law make it illegal to fire someone for being gay. He's wrong. There is no such protection. Some classes — age, gender, race, religion — ARE protected, but not gays.

* The ordinance uses the word "perceived" about anti-discrimination. Opponents think this makes imaginary wrongs a violation. This word is used in the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, Title VII employment legislation and in 20 state laws including that in Arkansas. There's a good reason. If somebody gets fired for being perceived as black (or old, or a woman, or gay) when he is not, it should still be a violation of the law.

* That the burden of proof is on the accused. Untrue. Any criminal case (and the violation in this ordinance is punishable by only a small fine) must meet probable cause for filing and proof beyond a reasonable doubt for conviction. The ordinance doesn't change that. The burden of proof is thus on the accuser. Clark seems to have just made this up.

* It is "criminalizing" civil misconduct. True, after a fact, because Arkansas law doesn't allow civil causes of action, unlike many states. But, again, nobody will ever spend a minute behind bars for discriminating against gay people, however overtly and intentionally.

* The chamber wont' tolerate discrimination based on "lifestyle choices." This is a dead giveaway of the chamber's thinking. Being gay or transgender isn't a choice, any more than being heterosexual is a choice. Critics of Clark's statement have some reason to think he's searched to find legal pretexts for something a lot easier to identify — old-fashioned bias.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Comments (11)

Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Little Rock school activists announce events for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis

    The group is not affiliated with the official "Reflections of Progress" commemoration of the 60th anniversary. However, at least two of the Little Rock Nine may be joining the group for an event at 2:30 p.m. at the state Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Your daily dose of Jason Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert really, really didn't like it when a KATV reporter asked him about the hypocrisy of his political arguments.
    • Feb 4, 2017


Most Viewed

  • The New Yorker profiles Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    Paige Williams, profiling Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the current New Yorker, describes the pugilistic Sanders as "Trump's battering ram." Bottom line: As defensive as ever.
  • Government transformation: An idea from the Insurance commissioner

    I have been making information requests around state to government to get an inkling of what Gov. Asa Hutchinson intends to announce about reorganizing state government in the name of efficiency. This morning, an idea on that subject from Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr, unearthed by an FOI request.
  • State recommends denial of new permit for C and H Hog Farm

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has recommended denial of a new permit for discharge of waste by the C and H Hog Farm in Newton County.
  • More reorganization news

    Some further news on the government reorganization front includes a memo sent to agencies by the governor's chief of staff, Alison Williams, last week.
  • Unsealed court documents include kickback accusation against former state Rep. Tim Summers; Summers says "Jon Woods is a proven liar"

    The more than 500 pages of court filings recently unsealed by Federal Judge Timothy Brooks in the federal corruption case against former state Sen. Jon Woods include notes from a 2017 meeting between former state Rep. Micah Neal and federal investigators. According to these notes, Neal described what appears to be an accusation by Woods that state. Rep. Tim Summers, then a lobbyist, took kickbacks in exchange for helping to get GIF money for an affiliate of Preferred Family Healthcare where Summers worked on staff.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation