The Conway City Council voted 6-2 in favor of adding sexual orientation and gender identity protections for city employees at its Tuesday meeting.
Ordinance: Equal Opportunity Employment
In effect immediately as a result of an emergency clause, the ordinance generated about two hours of public feedback from both supporters and opponents, who filled many of the seats at Russell L "Jack" Roberts District Court Building in downtown Conway.
The emergency clause passed with the same margin in another vote from the city council.
During the meeting, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell said he and the city would not back down from affording extra protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. He added that he was "proud" of the outcome.
Several in the audience, including two council members, expressed their desire for the topic to be tabled for a later date, allowing for more public input and more time for evaluation.
Those voting in favor were council members Andy Hawkins, representing Ward 1 Position 1; David Grimes, Ward 1 Position 2; Wesley Pruitt, Ward 2 Position 1; Shelley Mehl, Ward 2 Position 2; Theodore Jones Jr., Ward 4 Position 1; and Shelia Whitmore, Ward 4 Position 2.
Alderman Mark Ledbetter, Ward 3 Position 1, and alderwoman Mary Smith, Ward 3 Position 2, voted against the ordinance, citing lack of adequate time to consider the policy and concerns about the need for changes to equal opportunity employment protections.
A number of Conway residents, as well as a few from out of town, spoke in favor and against the ordinance one at a time.
The residents included local politicians such as state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow), who spoke to the Log Cabin Democrat earlier this week about his views that the ordinance would create a threat to certain religious freedoms. He echoed that messaged during Tuesday's meeting.
Another resident, a city employee, said the ordinance would protect people he has worked with who could have been personally discriminated against without the added protection.
Those opposed said the ordinance was not necessary or that it posed the possibility of being a "slippery slope" into protections outside of city employees, while supporters said the timing was right to make pass what they saw as a "human right."
The Log Cabin Democrat will have a full article in Thursday's newspaper with more public input on both sides, as well as an overview of how the new city ordinance will impact city employees.
An additional article will also address other action agenda items for the Conway City Council that were presented and voted upon Tuesday.
(Staff writer Brandon Riddle can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 505-1215 or on Twitter @BrandonCRiddle. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to thecabin.net. Send us your news at thecabin.net/submit)