Arkansas Wins Legal Victory Over Fayetteville Ordinance

This morning the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled the City of Fayetteville cannot enforce an ordinance that gives special protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The court case stems from a so-called “nondiscrimination” ordinance the City of Fayetteville adopted in 2015 despite a state law effectively preventing cities and counties from creating protected classes that are not found in state laws like the Arkansas Civil Rights Act.

Besides running afoul of state law, the Fayetteville ordinance has a number of significant problems.

Under Fayetteville’s ordinance, a minister could be penalized for declining to solemnize a same-sex marriage, and people of faith who own catering services, florist shops, and wedding venues could be penalized for choosing not to participate in same-sex ceremonies.

After more than three years of legal wrangling, the state’s highest court has handed us a solid victory in this case.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and her office have worked tirelessly to stop the City of Fayetteville from enforcing this unlawful ordinance.

The lawsuit over this ordinance has bounced from court to court in the state, but the A.G.’s team has been very proactive at every turn. I honestly don’t believe any state attorney general’s office does a better job standing up for what’s right than Arkansas’.

Photo Credit: “Old Main from the northwest, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas (autumn)” by Brandonrush – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

State Officials, City Attorneys Spar Over Fayetteville Ordinance

In 2015 the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 137, the Intrastate Commerce Act. This good law prevents local municipalities from creating protected classes not found in state law.

It ensures Arkansas does not wind up with a patchwork of conflicting civil rights ordinances and policies in different cities and counties. It also helps ensure local municipalities do not adopt ordinances that undermine religious liberties.

In the fall of 2015 the City of Fayetteville adopted an ordinance creating protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge wrote that the ordinance was unenforceable under Act 137. Last February the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed and overturned the ordinance, saying it violates state law.

The discussion should have ended there, but now attorneys from the City of Fayetteville and the State of Arkansas are back in court, arguing over whether or not Act 137 is constitutional. Fayetteville’s attorneys say the law is not constitutional. The state’s attorneys say it is.

The judge overseeing the case has even gone so far as to suggest that lawmakers who sponsored Act 137 should be questioned to determine their reasoning for the legislation.

Legislative intent is important, but it has nothing to do with whether or not Act 137 is constitutional. Laws about discrimination are best left to the state and federal governments. Act 137 simply ensures the state will make those policies rather than local municipalities.

You can read more about this story here.

Photo Credit: “Old Main from the northwest, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas (autumn)” by Brandonrush – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.