On May 5th, 2015, a gathering of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual, etc) demonstrators, friends, and supporters at City Hall celebrated with muted enthusiasm, passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance sponsored by City Director Becca Clark. In an action reminiscent of how the U.S. Congress so often exempts itself from the the legislative burdens that lawmakers deem appropriate for the rest of us, an amendment to the ordinance to exempt federal, state, & local government as well as IRS approved non-profits from compliance was proposed by Director Randy Fale and approved by a majority of the Board immediately prior to the vote on the amended proposal.
Director Fale’s amendment reads as follows: “SECTION 4 This ordinance shall not be applicable to Federal, State, and Local government entities, or their respected agencies, political subdivisions or non-profit organizations so designated by the Internal Revenue Service.” The measure passed 6-1 with only Mayor Ruth Carney voting “No”. The exemptions for Federal, State, and Local government as well as IRS approved non-profits, leaves applicability of the law to the City of Hot Spring’s dealings with private-sector businesses only.
Failure to exempt government entities and IRS approved non-profits might have had numerous unintended problematic consequences to the the City of Hot Springs … possibly including:
- Inability to contract for incarceration of city prisoners in the county detention center
- Inability to contract with the County for animal welfare services
- Inability to enter into any other contractual agreements with the County
- A number of churches that currently serve as polling places for city voters could become unavailable
- Inability to participate in programs for Federal & State turn-back funds
- Inability to participate in grant programs requiring contractual agreements
Director Fale did have the courtesy to at least respond (though his response was dismissive of the concern) to an email sent to all the Directors urging that the ordinance include a definition of terms, not to exclude a comprehensive definition of “sexual orientation”, and clarification that sexual orientations that require illegal behavior for full expression should be discriminated against. For example the City Boys and Girls Club should not be barred from discriminating against hiring persons whose sexual orientation is toward children, and persons who claim that their sexual orientation requires public nudity should not be permitted to force their sexual orientation upon the rest of society.
Depending on who is right, a state law passed during the Arkansas 90th General Assembly may make the city ordinance null and void on July 22, 2015 when Act 137 of 2015 takes effect. Representative Mickey Gates testified at the 5-5-15 BOD meeting affirming his view that the new city ordinance will be unenforceable on July 22, also citing the State Attorney General as affirming the same. In contrast Little Rock City Attorney Thomas M. Carpenter provided his analysis and opinion to Hot Springs Attorney Brian Albright which he shared with the Hot Springs Board of Directors as part of an information package. In it Carpenter stated his conclusion that “The proposed ordinance does not violate Arkansas law, specifically Act 137 of 2015 …”