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Culture

City Council Creates Sexual Orientation Task Force

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/city-council-creates-sexual-orientation-task-force_49591.mp3

Springfield City Council voted in August to table and “send to task force” a controversial proposal which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination law. City council formally adopted a resolution Monday night to create this “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Citizens’ Task Force.” The task force’s job will be to look into discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the city. KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser has more.

The task force will be made up of 18 people: 15 voting members and 3 non-voting. Of the 15 voting members, 8 will be chosen by the council, and 7 will be picked by the Public Involvement Committee from applications submitted by citizens.

Stephanie Perkins, the deputy director of PROMO, a statewide advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, hopes that the task force will decide to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the non-discrimination law. She says PROMO receives calls every day from people across Missouri that have been discriminated against because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

“If it’s in a city like Springfield, we have to tell them that we’re sorry, but there’s nothing that we can do.”

Mark Kiser, president of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, believes the task force needs to focus on correcting issues from the original ordinance.

“Since we already have laws in state and federal government protecting sexual discrimination, or sexual orientation, I think we would have to ask the question in task force, do we really need another law in Springfield?”

Kiser also believes the task force should consider the constitutionality of the ordinance.

“We were granting rights to one group of people, but we were going to be taking a lot of rights for some other people, which would make it very unconstitutional.”

Kiser says one group losing rights would be business owners, who he believes should be able to hire whoever they want. Perkins disagrees, saying that Springfield already has an ordinance preventing discrimination against things like race, sex, and disability.

“And those enumerated categories do not conflict with a business. They don’t infringe on a business’s rights, and sexual orientation would also not infringe on a business’s rights.”

Neither Perkins nor Kiser plan to apply to be on the task force. Perkins believes that the city is looking for people in the middle on the issue.

“I think that this task force should really be made up of people who…who have a true stake in where this ordinance goes, either way, but who can sit there for six months and be open to discussion and really learn about the issue.”

Once appointments to the task force have been made, members will have until June 30th to submit a report and make a recommendation to City Council. Any recommendation will still require approval by City Council before they take effect. For a link to the task force member application form, click here.

For KSMU News, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.