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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 50
Win one, lose one: Plano, TX passes LGBT rights ordinance; Fayetteville, AR repeals theirs
Section One
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Win one, lose one: Plano, TX passes LGBT rights ordinance; Fayetteville, AR repeals theirs

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The City Council of Plano, Texas, passed an LGBT rights ordinance on December 8; but the next day a similar law in Fayetteville, Arkansas was repealed by voters.

The Plano ordinance, passed by 5 votes to 3, bans discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislation was supported by Plano Mayor Harry Larosiliere, who is African-American.

Larosiliere, who presided over the City Council meeting that passed the measure, repeatedly admonished anti-Gay forces not to interrupt the proceedings. In his remarks, the mayor compared the city's lack of LGBT protections to prior federal laws counting blacks as three-fifths of a person or barring women from voting.

'Tell me the appropriate time to do the right thing?' he asked. 'Frankly, the question is not, 'Why now?' It's, 'What took us so long?'

Council member Andre Davidson responded to speakers who objected to the ordinance on religious grounds.

'Quite honestly, if my goal really is as a Christian to emulate Jesus, that means serving all of mankind,' Davidson said. 'And with that in my heart, I truly believe the right thing to do is to support this ordinance.'

Texas Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton weighed in with an open letter urging Plano officials to postpone a vote on the measure.

'As husbands and wives with children, we have concerns that your sexual orientation and transgender ordinance may place women and children at risk and does not consider the moral or religious beliefs of Plano citizens or vendors who do business with the city,' the letter warned.

The Plano-based Liberty Institute has threatened to sue the city if the ordinance goes into effect.

Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Brownsville, El Paso, and Waco already have similar laws on the books.

'They're reporting great success with this,' Plano City Attorney Paige Mims noted. 'None of them have been sued and had their ordinances overturned.'

With nearly 300,000 residents, Plano is the ninth most populous city in Texas, and is the location for several corporate headquarters, including JC Penney, Frito-Lay, Toyota Motors USA, and Yum Brands - the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC.

Meanwhile, a similar city ordinance was repealed by voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Ordinance 119 extended civil rights protections to several classes of people, including LGBT residents. It was passed on August 20 and repealed in a special election on December 9.

Although figures for early voting suggested that the measure would be approved by voters, the final tally was 7,523 for repeal, and 7,040 for retention.

LGBT rights supporters charged that University of Arkansas Dean Danny Pugh tried to suppress voting by cancelling the university's shuttle bus service to the polls. Anti-Gay Arkansas legislator Senator Bart Hester had threatened to cut the university's funding after Chancellor David Gearhart announced his support for the civil rights ordinance.

Hester also promised to introduce a state law to prevent Arkansas cities from passing similar measures in the future.

The Fayetteville ordinance had been opposed by all the usual suspects, led by the anti-Gay Arkansas Family Council, but also by the state Chamber of Commerce, which argued that employers should be able to hire and fire employees at will.

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