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The Duggars Helped Overturn LGBTQ Civil Rights in Arkansas. They Still Have a TV Show.

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The public may have forgotten about the Duggars, but Arkansas has not.

The family’s TLC reality show, Counting On, quietly debuted its ninth season last month. A spinoff of the once-popular 19 Kids and Counting, it was developed after reports broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle, molested four of his 18 siblings as a teenager. TLC swiftly canceled 19 Kids and Counting in the aftermath of the controversy. While that show was a ratings smash that made the Duggars a household name, just under 1.5 million watched Counting On’s February 11 premiere to see fourth-oldest daughter Jinger Duggar prepare for motherhood.

But for residents of Fayetteville, the show’s return was an unwelcome reminder of its own troubled history with the embattled reality stars. Less than two weeks prior, the Arkansas Supreme Court had effectively struck down a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance in the college town of around 73,000. Ordinance 5781 outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

It was actually the second time the state’s highest bench ruled against Ordinance 5781. In 2017, the Arkansas Supreme Court claimed the Fayetteville ordinance violates Act 137, a state law forbidding local municipalities from extending civil rights protections to any group that has not been established as a protected class under statewide law. On January 31, the court effectively upheld its earlier decision by overturning a lower court injunction allowing the ordinance to remain on the books while LGBTQ advocates mounted a legal challenge to Act 137.

Representatives with the pro-ordinance group For Fayetteville filed an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court to rehear the case. Justices have yet to respond to their petition.

Depending on the bench’s decision, the case could have implications for Conway, Eureka Springs, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Marvell, and North Little Rock, which also have nondiscrimination laws on the books; They have received no information from the Arkansas Supreme Court on how they stand to be affected. The Duggars could ultimately play an instrumental role in killing protections against discrimination for the estimated 79,000 LGBTQ adults who call Arkansas home.

As many in Fayetteville will tell you, one of the more painful things about the ongoing controversy is that the Duggars don’t even live in their town. Jim Bob and Michelle reside in a 7,000-foot compound across from a landfill in Tontitown, a small community on the outskirts of Fayetteville. They are one of Northwest Arkansas’ several prominent “Quiverfull” families, an evangelical movement that encourages followers to procreate as much as possible. Adherents of the ideology say the goal is to create an army of foot soldiers for Christ. They shun premarital sex and birth control.

Like many in the Quiverfull movement, the Duggar family regards LGBTQ people as committing a “sin.” Members of its ever-expanding clan have referred to homosexuality as a “worldview that rejects God’s truth,” “degrading to children,” and a “travesty.” Derick Dillard, husband of second-oldest daughter Jill Duggar Dillard, has referred to trans identity as a “myth” and compared gender-affirming surgeries to “genital mutilation.”

Days before the Fayetteville City Council approved the nondiscrimination ordinance, Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall warning voters that the proposal allowed “men to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only.”

“I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls,” the Duggar matriarch said at the time. “I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.”

City Councilmember Kyle Smith compared the August 2014 robocall to asking someone where they were the day of JFK’s assassination. If you’re at a party in Fayetteville and the subject of politics comes up, he claims that everyone wants to know: “Do you remember when you got that phone call from Michelle Duggar?”

“It’s still fresh in everybody’s minds because you see them at Sam’s Club once a week,” Smith told Rewire.News. “For us, it wasn’t this nationally famous group coming in and meddling in our business. It was this family from the town next door. That’s where it came down for us—these folks over the city line getting involved in ideological things rather than any kind of impact it was going to have on them.”

It was just one phone call, but its effect cannot be overstated. After the Fayetteville City Council ignored Michelle Duggar by voting in favor of the LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance, opponents lobbied to get the issue put up to a public vote. It was repealed 52 percent to 48 percent.

Fayetteville would continue to flip-flop on the issue of LGBTQ nondiscrimination in the coming months. Although the first ordinance (referred to locally as Chapter 119) was repealed at the ballot box in December 2014, the Fayetteville City Council passed an amended version (the aforementioned Ordinance 5781) in June 2015. Voters upheld the updated civil rights law by six points, but by that point, it didn’t matter. According to the........

© Rewire.News