Springfield City Council members could soon decide if they will change the city's discrimination ordinance to include rights for gays. Under the current non-discrimination ordinance age, race, creed, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, and ancestry are protected.
The Mayor's Commission on Human Rights recently asked the city council to send the issue to a committee or hold a public hearing. Advocates want city leaders to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the discrimination ordinance.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates say someone could get kicked off a city bus, denied a place to rent or fired from their job for being gay. “That's just a very, very basic, basic right,” PROMO Deputy Director Stephanie Perkins said.
Justin Letts supports the effort. “I do unfortunately know quite a few people that have been denied housing or people going to lengths such as not disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity in their workplace for fear of being fired,” Letts said.
Letts will graduate college next year and begin searching for work. “I have definitely considered staying in Springfield. I haven't decided because I have another year to go,” Letts said. “Something that's always in the back of my mind is job security, whether or not I can feel I'm in a position where I'm actually being judged based on my merit and my qualifications.”
Perkins says if Springfield city leaders change the ordinance, Springfield would be the first southern city in Missouri to have an ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation or gender identity. She says those individuals are not protected under state or federal law.
Perkins says the ordinance change wouldn't give anyone special rights, just the same rights as others. “Sometimes it is about having that legal recourse so if it does happen it’s about someone being able to say ‘this isn't right and we need to something about it.’” Perkins said. “Most of the time it’s about security. It’s about knowing that when you get a job it’s going to be based on your job performance and not sexual orientation.”
Members of the mayor's commission sent three proposed ordinances to the city council designed to work together to ban discrimination. In 2006, Missouri State University added sexual orientation to its non discrimination policy. Drury followed shortly after.
One ordinance adds protection of sexual orientation and gender identity to public accommodations such as employment. The other adds protections for housing. The third proposed ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination code.