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“Protect Fayetteville” Holds Rally To Oppose Civil Rights Ordinance

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A group that opposes a proposed civil rights ordinance held a rally Tuesday (August 11) at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville...

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- A group that opposes a proposed civil rights ordinance held a rally Tuesday (August 11) at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

Protect Fayetteville members claim the proposed ordinance, Ordinance 5781, infringes on their religious first-amendment freedoms. If it is approved by voters, the ordinance would protect the LGBT community from being denied service, housing or being fired based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bill Collins is a business owner who attended the Protect Fayetteville rally. He believes the ordinance may also affect fellow business owners and how much revenue they bring in.

"If things go terribly wrong, you could lose everything," he said. "It is going to change how they do business, how they interact with the public, and it is just going to be one more thing that is going to interfere with their ability to make a profit."

But according to Kyle Smith, a member of a group called For Fayetteville that supports the ordinance, there are nearly 400 businesses in the city that support the law.

"This is an opportunity to tell the rest of the state and the country that we are open for business and everyone is welcome," he said. "We think Fayetteville is the kind of community where everyone ought to be treated fairly and right now that is not necessarily the case."

But Collins believes the ordinance leaves local businesses with a lot of "what ifs."

"It is an unknown," he said. "If it passes, now all of a sudden what's next? It does open a door significantly to so many other legal requirements that business owners will to abide by."

A couple from Oregon spoke at the Protect Fayetteville rally. Aaron and Melissa Klein are in the process of appealing a $135,000 lawsuit claiming emotional damages after refusing to cater the wedding of a lesbian couple in 2013.

According to the Fayetteville ordinance, violating the law would result in a $100 fine for the first offense.

The group For Fayetteville is also planning campaigning events. They will host an event Saturday, August 15 at Teatro Scarpino at 6:30 p.m. where members of the LGBT community will share stories of how discrimination has entered their lives during a "Tales from the South" segment that will air on NPR.

Early voting for the civil rights ordinance begins Sept. 1, and election day is Sept. 8.