The Fayetteville City Council is currently considering “Proposed Chapter 119: The Civil Rights Administration.”
Proponents are billing this proposal as an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the rights of homosexuals and transgender people (i.e. people who disagree with their biological gender) in Fayetteville. However, the ordinance carries a number of unintended consequences:
1. The ordinance affects churches. Under this ordinance, churches who have religious objections to homosexuality or disagreeing with one’s biological gender could face criminal prosecution if they refuse to hire a gay or transgender job applicant to fill a “secular” staff position (e.g. bookkeeper, receptionist, etc.).
Many churches do not distinguish between “secular” and “non-secular” staff positions. This ordinance would force them to do so.
Churches could also be forced to open their fellowship hall or similar portions of their property for same-sex “wedding” receptions and similar functions they find objectionable.
2. 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.
Proposals like this ordinance have already been challenged in other parts of the country because they could give legal cover to stalkers and sexual predators loitering around public restrooms.
3. The ordinance affects private schools. The ordinance specifically exempts public schools, but not private. Under this ordinance, private, Christian schools could be forced to hire gay or transgender teachers, despite religious objections the school may have to homosexuality. Additionally, private schools could be forced to allow male students who claim to be female to use the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.
4. The ordinance will affect religious business owners. Under this ordinance, any baker, florist, or photographer who has a deeply-held, religious objection to homosexuality could face criminal prosecution if they decline to photograph, bake a cake, or provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex ceremony or reception.
We have already seen these scenarios play out with photographers, bakers, and florists in Oregon, Washington State, New Mexico, and Colorado. In each case, Christians who simply wanted to do business without being forced to engage in activity that violates their faith (i.e. a same-sex wedding ceremony) have been sued, fined, and threatened with jail time. This ordinance would bring those same problems to Fayetteville.
Christian bookstores and para-church ministries such as homeless shelters, food pantries, and similar charities could also be forced to hire employees who do not share their beliefs—something which could undermine the mission of these organizations.
This is an ordinance all Arkansans need to weigh in on. Even if you do not live in Fayetteville, you need to take action against this ordinance for two reasons:
First, if the City of Fayetteville can pass an ordinance like this, a similar ordinance could just as easily pass in your town—or at the Arkansas Legislature in Little Rock—sometime down the road.
Second, we have a responsibility to our neighbors across the state. We should not dismiss this ordinance just because it is not “our problem.”
Please click here to email the members of the Fayetteville City Council, and let them know Proposed Chapter 119 is an ordinance no city in Arkansas needs to adopt.
We will have more information on this ordinance in the near future.
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.