Rollout tonight for Little Rock non-discrimination ordinance | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rollout tonight for Little Rock non-discrimination ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 7:04 AM

Little Rock City Director Kathy Webb's ordinance to make law of a non-discrimination policy for Little Rock city employees and to require non-discrimination pledges from companies that do business with the city will get introduced at a City Board agenda meeting at 4 p.m. today.

It could reach a vote as early as next week.

The city has a policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — among other characteristics — but nothing in city code. It has no specific requirement for such non-discrkmination by businesses that seek city money for services and goods. The ordinance has no enforcement mechanism. But it is an important step and could be cited should discrimination be reported by a city vendor.

The extension of city non-discrimination in ordinance to an outside business also squarely positions the city in potential conflict with Sen. Bart Hester's new law to prohibit such ordinances. That law isn't in effect until late July because it lacked an emergency clause. That law allows local governments to have such policies for their own employees, but nothing more. Even government policies can be controversial. Sen. Jason Rapert, a staunch foe of legal quality for gay people, raised sand about such a proposal in Conway.

City officials have been too reticent for my liking on taking a robust and sweeping public position on their belief in non-discrimination. For a city with a growing population of "out" citizens and a desire to participate fully in U.S. technology industry, it has been shockingly timid. In recent weeks, several members of the city board have even said they saw no need for an ordinance  or at least didn't believe the city could or should have any influence on conduct of private business. (Even as some of them believe the city should and can make such demands on those who'd otherwise like to discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, gender or disability.)

But much behind-the-scenes work has been done. I feel upbeat about majority support for Webb's ordinance. (City Director Joan Adcock's expected aversion to equal treatment under the law for minorities not withstanding.)

Retired Rabbi Gene Levy says he's lined up 26 clergy on a resolution in support of the measure, ranging from Baptist to Jew with an assortment of other flavors in between.

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