Texarkana, AR passes new anti-discrimination ordinance

Texarkana, AR passes anti-discrimination ordinance
(Source: KSLA News 12)
(Source: KSLA News 12)

TEXARKANA, AR (KSLA) - The City of Texarkana, Arkansas could soon join other Arkansas cities that have passed new protections against discrimination.

City leaders passed a new anti-discrimination ordinance Tuesday night in an effort to bring new business to the area.

But, the decision, without public discussion, is not sitting well with some residents.

Texarkana businessman Richard Wagnon was at the meeting when city leaders unanimously approved the anti-discrimination policy.

The ordinance forbids the city from discriminating against anyone in its hiring or business practices because of race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and genetic information.

"Not only does it say you cannot discriminate against gender identity, genetic information, I'm not sure what the definition of that is, but it says they cannot indirectly discriminate," explained Wagnon.

The ordinance, while confusing to some, follows several other Arkansas cities like Hot Springs and Little Rock, which adopted similar plans after the State Legislature passed Act 137 last year.

That state law, which went into effect without Gov. Asa Hutchinson's signature, allows each county, city and town in Arkansas to create its own system for dealing with discrimination.

But not all residents are on board with the decision.

"Apparently the City of Texarkana Board of Directors can define what our rights are," said Wagnon, who is against the ordinance.

We tried to reach out to Texarkana board member Tim Johnson, who sponsored the bill, clarify the ordinance but we haven't heard back.

None of Johnson's fellow board members wanted to speak to us on camera either. But, the mayor did say the measure was passed in hopes of bringing in more big industries to Texarkana.

For residents like Wagnon, he just wants voters to have a say, a chance to be heard.

"All I ask simply is that they allow citizens of Texarkana to have time to at least weigh in on this vote to at least give us a week to discuss it and bring our opinion to counsel," explained Wagnon.

Off camera, board member Laney Harris said he agrees that voters should have been allowed to weigh in on the ordinance.

If no other action takes place, the ordinance goes into effect in 30 days.

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