By Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BP) — Residents in Fayetteville, Ark., will once again vote on an ordinance aimed at protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Sept. 8.
Passed by the Fayetteville City Council in a 6-2 vote June 16, Ordinance 5781 is a revised version of a similar civil rights law originally passed in August 2014 by the council. The law was repealed by a popular vote in December.
According to media reports, the new ordinance would “prohibit business owners and landlords from firing or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It will also provide protections for use of public accommodations, including restrooms.”
Ron Lomax, director of missions for Washington Madison Baptist Association in Fayetteville, said churches associated with his association oppose the new ordinance, as they did the old ordinance.
“It’s not much different than the first one. It’s worded a little bit different, but the intent is the same,” he said. “We’ll be encouraging our people to vote it down again.”
Lomax added that while the ordinance exempts churches and religious organizations, it does not address Christians who live and work outside of the church or religious organizations.
“They don’t explain any of that. It’s kind of up in the air to what this all really means. They specifically put in there that churches and religious organizations wouldn’t be listed under the businesses. They put that in there hoping it would encourage Christians to vote it through,” he said.
Lomax said the vagueness of the ordinance excludes Christians in and of themselves from the religious exemptions. What it means, he said, is Christians could possibly be legally forced to do things contrary to their faith or suffer fines.
“Christians are not excluded. If you own a bakery or you are a florist or something, you would still be taken to court or fined for deciding not to do a wedding or something like that,” Lomax said. “So it doesn’t protect Christians.”