City Attorney Explains SOGI’s Religious Exemption, Mayor’s Commission’s Role
Clarification on the much publicized Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) ballot measure was the goal of a Thursday evening forum in Springfield, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri.
Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer gave a presentation and answered questions from the audience on the provisions of ordinance number 6141. It was passed in October but then sent to the voters following a successful referendum petition.
Wichmer stated that the bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class to the city’s non-discrimination law. In addition, he addressed the investigatory powers of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights under the bill.
“So the main thing that this ordinance was supposed to do was to make the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights explicitly advisory so nobody had any confusion.”
Its powers were amended based on interpretation of the Yellow Freight Sys., Inc. v. Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights of City of Springfield decision (Sec. 64-40).
“Now what I did was I went to Yellow Freight because people, I know there have been some attorneys in town trying to say they (Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights) can come in and seize your records, it’s not true.”
He added, “Either you agree to work with the commission through mediation and conciliation, or basically you say I’m not interested,” Wichmer said. “At which point they send it to the prosecutor, me, and I look to see if I can make a case beyond a reasonable doubt with all your constitutional protections.”
Wichmer also addressed the bill’s religious exemption (Sec. 62-34 (7)).
“So keep in mind there is a religious exemption in here, if you go through this whole ordinance there’s explicit religious exemption for employment, for anybody that works for a religious entity or works for a religiously affiliated entity.”
He also wanted to alleviate some concerns citizens have about public accommodation safety.
“In our code right now, 78-183, I can designate who goes into the bathroom and where people are allowed to go within my business,” Wichmer said. “I cannot have a prohibition based on race, creed, color, religious belief or national origin; notice we did not amend that for sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Question 1 on the Tuesday ballot asks whether or not Springfield shall repeal the ordinance. A “yes” vote is for repeal, while a “no” vote is for upholding the ordinance.
Visit KSMU’s election coverage page for details on other ballot measures and various voting and polling questions.