Conway set to consider anti-discrimination rule for city employees | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 23, 2015

Conway set to consider anti-discrimination rule for city employees

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 11:28 AM

click to enlarge MAYOR TAB TOWNSELL
The Conway City Council, led by Mayor Tab Townsell, is set to consider an ordinance Tuesday night that would extend non-discrimination policies in city employment to, among other grounds, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The policy would apply to all elements of employment, from hiring to promotion to discipline and termination.

Little Rock and North Little Rock also have city personnel policies that extend protection on ground of sexuality.

Conway, which gives us the likes of anti-gay Sen. Jason Rapert, is expecting opposition to the proposal at Tuesday's meeting.

Gay discrimination legislation that Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he intends to allow to become law today not only prohibits such city policies in the future, but also  blocks enforcement of such policies.

SB 202 says:

A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a  basis not contained in state law.

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are not covered by the state civil rights statute. 

The state law covers race, religion, national origin, gender, or the presence of any sensory, physical, or mental disability.

The Conway rule covers "race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, martial status or status as a covered veteran...."

Mayor Townsell has spoken out vigorously against the state law previously.

Eureka Springs has already passed a broad anti-discrimination statute for the city, not just city employees. Little Rock officials claim to be working on a measure, though some city directors have already raised objections. Mayor Mark Stodola said over the weekend that he opposed both SB 202 and another House bill, 1228, on grounds broader than just the loss of local control.

I am opposed to the legislation for its discriminatory effect against certain real or perceived classes of people; the likely chilling effect it will have on business recruitment, etc. etc.

I have been researching both ordinances and existing laws and regulations which I believe already provide protections specifically as to sexual orientation. I am a bit surprised no one on either side has done the research.

I also have been advising and working with Director Webb and our city attorney on an ordinance or resolution which the city board can support and pass.  

"which the city board can support ...." These are words that make the heart sink.

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