Understanding the Amendments to the Fayetteville Ordinance

A Further Analysis of Chapter 119

Overview: On August 20, 2014, the Fayetteville City Council passed asexual-orientation and gender-identity nondiscrimination ordinance (Chapter 119). Proponents of the ordinance added two amendments to the proposal in an effort to alleviate some concerns over the measure’s unintended consequences. The amendments, however, fail to address many of the flaws in the proposal.

Church Property Amendment

Amendment 1: “Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to require any religious or denominational institution or association to open its tax exempt property or place of worship to any individual or group for any ceremony or meeting, except for any activity or service that is supported in whole or part by public funds.”

Analysis: This amendment partly addresses one of the many ways Proposed Chapter 119 restricts religious liberty in Fayetteville. It generally prevents church property from being used, for example, for a same-sex wedding or reception. However, it fails to address the following:

  • Churches still face the threat of prosecution. This amendment does not exempt churches altogether. At best, it exempts church property. Churches can still be forced to employ a gay or transgender person for “secular” job positions (e.g. bookkeeper, receptionist, etc.). Even with this amendment,a church still faces the threat of criminal prosecution simply for wanting to employ people who share and abide by the faith that church proclaims.
  • Ministers still face the threat of prosecution, individually. This ordinance affects ministers who officiate weddings or ceremonies for non-church-members, because they are offering a public service. This amendment protects church property, but not the ministers employed by the church. This means ministers could still be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies on non-church property (e.g. a park, private wedding chapel, etc.). This opens ministers to the possibility of prosecution simply for declining to perform a ceremony contradictory their religious convictions.
  • Businesspeople are still open to prosecution. Across the nation, florists, bakers, photographers, wedding venue owners, and similar businesspeople have faced litigation and prosecution for declining to take part in same-sex ceremonies. This amendment does not protect religious businesspeople who object to hosting or serving in a same-sex ceremony.
  • Private schools are not exempted. This amendment does not protect a private school’s ability to employ people who share its religious views or safeguard any of its other religious liberties. 


Fayetteville Group Responsible for Phone Calls

We have been asked if Family Council orchestrated or paid for automated telephone calls made in Fayetteville earlier this week pertaining to the “nondiscrimination” ordinance the Fayetteville City Council adopted at its Aug. 19 meeting.

Just to clear things up, Family Council did not pay for the calls, nor did we have anything to do with the making of the calls.

As you know, Family Council has been a strong and vocal opponent of the Fayetteville nondiscrimination ordinance.  We are glad that numerous individuals, churches, and other groups in Fayetteville were active in the effort against the ordinance.  We are glad that our policy briefs, letters, blog posts and other material were used by so many different individuals and groups.

Apparently, a Fayetteville group made automated calls directing people to a website that automatically linked people to one of our blog posts on the ordinance.  This caused some people to believe we were responsible for the calls.  This was not the case.

Fayetteville City Council Ignores Voters, Passes Unpopular Ordinance

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At 3:20 AM Wednesday morning, the Fayetteville City Council passed the controversial Chapter 119: Civil Rights Administration ordinance creating special protections based on sexual-orientation and gender identity. The vote was 6-to-2, with aldermen Martin Schoppmeyer and Justin Tennant voting against the measure.

Family Council President Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “This is another example of government officials thinking they know better than their citizens. The People of Fayetteville turned out in droves to oppose this proposal. Alderman Tennant suggested referring the ordinance for a popular vote this November to let the people decide for themselves if this would be good for Fayetteville. Other members of the council said this ordinance is not the kind of thing voters should get to decide. I wonder what makes them think citizens are qualified to vote for lawmakers, but not for laws.”

Cox said even with last-minute amendments offered by the council, the ordinance is still bad. “You’re talking about a proposal that by nature expands government and elevates the rights of some citizens over others. You can’t amend something that flawed enough to make it acceptable. Businesses and people of faith still face the threat of criminal prosecution under this ordinance, and taxpayers are still bound to see their local government grow. Regardless of the intentions of the city council and City Attorney’s Office, this proposal is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and the courts will be the ones who have the final say on how it is interpreted.”

Cox said he is grateful to aldermen Schoppmeyer and Tennant who voted against the proposal. “They recognized how flawed this ordinance is, and they stood up for their constituents. That takes courage. I appreciate their actions, and I am sure a lot of other people do, too.”

Cox said his group will continue to monitor the situation in Fayetteville and any consequences that arise as a result of Chapter 119. “The ordinance is extremely unpopular; it infringes First Amendment constitutional rights; it might even conflict with state law; and it’s going to open people in Fayetteville to the possibility of criminal prosecution. With all of that in mind, I imagine some Fayetteville residents are going to try to repeal the ordinance, and others will want to file a lawsuit to clarify its constitutionality. One thing is certain: This fight is far from over.”