City of Eureka Springs Rushes “Anti-Discrimination” Ordinance

Last night the City Council of Eureka Springs rushed a so-called “anti-discrimination” ordinance through a single city council meeting.

Under the rules for local government meetings, an ordinance must be read three times before the city council may take a vote to pass the ordinance. This is intended to break the reading and discussion of an ordinance up over multiple meetings, giving council members an opportunity to hear from members of the public and devise amendments to the ordinance. However, council members may move to “suspend the rules” and read an ordinance three times in one meeting before taking a final vote.

Traditionally, city councils and quorum courts suspend the rules when an ordinance is noncontroversial or is addressing some sort of emergency situation. It’s a way to expedite the process under special circumstances. However, the City of Eureka Springs chose to rush a controversial ordinance through in a single council meeting at which very few members of the public were present to comment.

The ordinance is similar to the one the Fayetteville City Council tried to pass last year in that it extends special protections and privileges to citizens based on, among other things, sexual-orientation or gender identity, and it levies criminal penalties against violators–in this case, a $100-$500 fine per violation.

The Fayetteville ordinance created a Civil Rights Administrator who enforced it, while the Eureka Springs ordinance tasks the mayor with the responsibility of handling alleged violations of the ordinance.

Because the ordinance is substantially similar to the ordinance originally proposed in Fayetteville last summer, it will have the same unintended consequences:

  • The ordinance opens churches and ministers to criminal prosecution. It exempts church sanctuaries and chapels, but no other piece of church property. This means a Eureka Springs church could be forced to open its fellowship hall for a same-sex reception. It also means churches cannot consider sexual orientation and gender identity when hiring bookkeepers, receptionists, and other “secular” staff members.
  • The ordinance opens people of faith to criminal prosecution. Christian bakers, florists, wedding chapel owners, photographers, and others have faced litigation and prosecution in other states for declining to participate in same-sex ceremonies. This ordinances opens people of faith in Eureka Springs to the very same possibility of criminal prosecution.
  • The ordinance does not exempt private schools. Private, religious schools face the prospect of fines and prosecution for declining to hire a gay or transgender teacher under this ordinance.
  • The ordinance inadvertently allows men to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas. The ordinance says you cannot treat someone differently because of their gender identity, but it does not address public restrooms. By protecting gender identity without including exceptions for public restrooms and similar facilities, the ordinance permits a biological male who claims to be female to use the women’s restroom at any business or public site. This means grown men could use the women’s restrooms at parks, public pools, sports stadiums, and similar locations where children are present.

Photo Credit: Photolitherland at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Religious Freedom Bill Passes Committee, Heads to Entire House

HB1228, the Conscience Protection Act by Rep. Bob Ballinger, passed the House Judiciary Committee today.

This bill restores religious liberties that have eroded over the past 25 years. Most states in America have a state law, constitutional amendment, or court ruling protecting religious liberty similarly to HB1228. Arkansas is one of only a handful of states that has not affirmed the free exercise of religion.

The bill will be voted on by the entire Arkansas House of Representatives as early as tomorrow. Please call your state representative, and ask him or her to vote for HB1228, the Conscience Protection Act by Rep. Ballinger.

You can leave a message for your representative at (501) 682-6211.

CO Hotel Employees Receive Marijuana Training After Overdoses

Colorado, is known for its mountain resorts, but hotel employees are receiving additional training following accidental marijuana overdoses among employees and their families.

According to Summit Daily, departing guests often leave unused food and beverages as tips for housekeeping staff at hotels in Breckenridge. However, with the legalization of marijuana–and marijuana-infused foods–in Colorado, some guests are leaving marijuana edibles behind.

Oftentimes, marijuana-infused food is packaged similarly to popular snacks and candy bars, meaning hotel staff may not realize what they are eating contains marijuana until they begin feeling the effects of the drug.

The Summit Daily writes,

“The edibles-as-tips cases tend to follow a pattern: A hotel employee finds the leftover edibles in an empty guest room and eats them like any other sweets. But recreational products contain up to 100 milligrams of THC, which is roughly the potency of 64 joints made with pre-legalization marijuana, [authorities say]. Without knowing the dosage — first-time users shouldn’t eat more than 5 to 10 milligrams at a time — the employee can take upwards of 10 times the recommended amount of THC.”

According to The Aspen Times, a seven-year-old girl was taken to the hospital last summer after eating marijuana-laced candy her mother brought home from work at an area hotel.

Earlier this week an explosion occurred at an Arizona apartment complex. Witnesses indicated one of the people involved in the explosion was attempting to extract hash oil from marijuana using flammable chemicals–a trend we have written about before.

Stories like these and others from Colorado and elsewhere around the country underscore why so many citizens are leery of efforts to make marijuana more available in our communities.