Thursday, April 16, 2015

No need to wait for city attorney opinion about Little Rock civil rights ordinance

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 7:10 AM

click to enlarge JOAN ADCOCK: She asks a question, I have an answer.
  • JOAN ADCOCK: She asks a question, I have an answer.
City Director Joan Adcock, a foe of equal rights for gay people (just as she was never happy about equal rights for black people, as demonstrated by her animus toward Little Rock Central anniversary celebrations), has asked Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter for a legal opinion.

Is a proposed city civil rights ordinance, which covers sexual orientation and gender identity, in conflict with a state law that is to take effect in July?

I can provide  an answer to her question today:

If it is not in conflict with state law, there's no point in adopting the ordinance. But the answer is yes.

Carpenter has already given the answer, too, in a careful response at Tuesday's City Board agenda meeting to questions from Adcock and the Republican city directors Erma Hendrix and B.J. Wyrick aimed at the same point. He said he hadn't considered state law in drafting the ordinance. He was merely confident that federal law supported the constitutionality of what the city was setting out to do.

In other words, anybody who might suggest the state could pass a law preventing a city or county from barring discrimination against a particular class of people would lose to the U.S. constitution.

The state law is unconstitutional. A court decision will eventually render it so. That's why it was vital that the emergency clause for the law was defeated. That's why it's vital that Eureka Springs has passed a local civil rights ordinance, headed to the ballot in May. That's why it's important that Little Rock — and, we could hope, other cities — pass measures of their own devise.

Little Rock's effort is modest. It puts in law existing city employment policy. But it would add sexual elements to an existing non-discrimination policy for people who want to do business with the city. This edges the law into the area where the state might try to argue that the state law, when it takes effect, kills the city law. That's where I'm confident a court will prove them wrong. We need that issue to be decided, no matter how much city officials want to dance around it.

And let's call Joan Adcock's legal spade a spade. If she doesn't want to require businesses not to discriminate against gay people if they want city business, it also means she should vote to repeal the existing policy as it applies to black people, women, the elderly, the disabled and any other protected classes. Unless she really is just about discriminating against gay people. Because that's what the state law is about. And that's why such efforts have been ruled unconstitutional in other states.

Mayor Mark Stodola helps matters little with his so-called leadership. He insists federal law already protects gay people. In employment, it most certainly does not and there's little to support his position in public accommodations either. He diminishes the entire enterprise to try to pitch this as something merely symbolic, perhaps because he's had no meaningful role in advancing the cause of civil rights in this area, a woeful dereliction.

A vote is scheduled next week. A head count suggests more than the six votes needed were in hand last week. But the haters of the Family Council and the Republican Party are at work. (Wyrick has a high state job in the Hutchinson administration, working now, along with her daughter, directly supervised by an old Hutchinson ally. Does it matter? I hope not. Wyrick is usually independent, but her questioning isn't hopeful.)

It is possible that raising an alarm about a possible conflict with a discriminatory state law could make a couple of the soft votes go wobbly and one supporter, Ken Richardson, won't be in town to vote. So, based on recent comments, you start, at best, 7-3. And that puts Brad Cozart in the yes column, despite some recent negative remarks to me about passing a city ordinance.

In the 1950s,  a vote against a discriminatory and unconstitutional state law might have done wonders to prevent the tragedy that befell Little Rock and Arkansas. But cowardice prevailed — at least until the women stepped in. I see some irony in women of the city board leading the charge against equal rights under the law for all people.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Speaking of...

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Waiting to die. An account from Death Row

    Ibby Caputo, who contributed to our coverage of the legislature this year, has written an article for Slate about Morgan Holladay's experience as a spiritual helper to Jack Jones, one of four men executed in Arkansas last month.
    • May 22, 2017
  • Trump's budget could hit Arkansas hard

    If Donald Trump succeeds in cutting "entitlements" by $1.7 trillion, the impact will be felt particularly in poor states. In other words, Arkansas.
    • May 22, 2017
  • The open line and daily video roundup

    The open line and the daily video.
    • May 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • 'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway

    Reporting from around the U.S. continues to illustrate the folly of the Arkansas highway department and construction boosters like the chamber of commerce and Vice Mayor Lance Hines in advocating ever wider freeways through the heart of Little Rock. Syracuse, N.Y., is looking for a better way in a debate remarkably similar to the debate about widening Interstate 30 in Little Rock.
    • Nov 20, 2015
  • Federal judge reprimands John Goodson for misconduct in class-action case

    John Goodson  — the Texarkana attorney, D.C. lobbyist, and husband of Arkansas State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson — was reprimanded today by a federal judge for his conduct in a class-action case.
    • Aug 3, 2016
  • Ex-Hog Darrell Walker spotlighted for collection of work by black artists

    Former Razorback basketball player Darrell Walker and his art collection get a mention in today's New York Times in an article about the rising profiles and prices of black artists.
    • Nov 29, 2015

Most Shared

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.

Visit Arkansas

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

Dual Chihuly exhibit opening also brings culmination of year-plus forest project

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments




© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation