Favorite

Texarkana residents protest nondiscrimination law 

City director says he doesn't want Texarkana to miss out on economic development.

click to enlarge CITY DIRECTOR JOHNSON: Sponsor says ordinance will help Texarkana compete for new business.
  • CITY DIRECTOR JOHNSON: Sponsor says ordinance will help Texarkana compete for new business.

On Jan. 19, Texarkana joined the limited ranks of Arkansas cities that have passed ordinances providing some measure of equal protection for LGBT people. The modest measure, which was sponsored by City Director Tim Johnson, includes sexual orientation and gender identity among protected classes in city employment and personnel practices, and extends to those who contract with the city.

Now, Travis Story, the lawyer who sued to stop the enactment of Fayetteville's nondiscrimination ordinance, is taking his bathroom fright show to Texarkana as well. Last week, he met with residents who oppose the nondiscrimination ordinance, the Texarkana Gazette reported.

The law says Texarkana can't discriminate in its hiring and contracting on account of a person's "race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation."

The Texarkana Gazette reported on a gathering last Tuesday of 35 people at a property owned by Texarkana residents Richard Wagnon and his wife, Sheila, to hear Story. The newspaper quoted Story's bathroom anxiety: " 'Any facility that is a public accommodation that does business with the city, it specifically means they are going to have to allow things like someone who claims the gender of a female, although is male in every other respect, they are going to have to allow them into their restrooms,' he said. 'We are going to have to allow them into [the ladies'] restroom.' " It is the same argument Story and others, including the Jim Bob Duggar family, made in Fayetteville. Fayetteville's board of directors passed one non-discrimination ordinance, which was overturned by a referendum. A second, revised ordinance was subsequently passed by the voters and enacted in November.

Wagnon, who with his wife owns nursing homes and develops real estate, is quoted in the newspaper article as saying the ordinance "will lead to potential discrimination towards me, as a Christian, and my religious beliefs." He warned the crowd that supporters of the ordinance "are going to tell you all kinds of lies. They are going to tell you things like 'you're a homophobic.' " Wagnon said.

Those who oppose the ordinance are trying to force a referendum on the issue, which will require gathering at least 1,109 signatures of registered voters in the city limits of Texarkana, Ark., according to Story.

City Director Tim Johnson said the "sole intent" of the measure was to put the city in a better position to compete for new industry and business. With the opening of Interstate 49 and recently gained water rights to Lake Millwood, Texarkana is hoping to break out of stagnation, Johnson said, and he doesn't want the city ruled out of any competition for business because it did not have an anti-discrimination policy.

Johnson said he looked at other nondiscrimination policies, including Miller County's, Domtar Paper Co.'s in Ashdown, and Christus St. Michael Health System's, before introducing the one the board passed unanimously. He noted that at AT&T, where he worked for 36 years until retirement, "they have a very inclusive policy. ... I am not sure where the root of this opposition comes from."

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Get your fiber at the Main Branch of Laman Library: Cade, Halsey, Kuster, Zarco, Trusty, Hernandez and others

    Sixteen women who work in fiber arts — including long-time fiber artist Barbara Cade, tapestry artist and 2017 Living Treasure, weaver Louise Halsey, and Delta Exhibition veteran Dr. Deborah Kuster — have contributed work to the "All Women Fiber Arts Exhibition" opening Friday at the William F. Laman Public Library in North Little Rock. There will be a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The show is the second all-women fiber arts show organized by artist Rachel Trusty; the first was called "Form in Fiber," shown last year at the Laman Library Argenta Branch.
    • Aug 11, 2017
  • Bob Schneider at Rev Room

    Also, PopUp Argenta, Frances & The Foundation, "97" fiber installation at Bernice Garden, Jim Gaffigan, "Be Yourself" Poster Launch and more
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

    Also, Outlaw Music Festival, Little Tybee, Terminal Nation, Liz Brasher, Architecture and Design Network Talk from Jeff Shannon, Good Foot and more
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Asa on pre-K

    • Aug 17, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

 

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