Monday, April 24, 2006

South Bend Common Council Prepares To "Publicly" Debate Gay Rights Ordinance

The South Bend Tribune reports that the proposed gays rights ordinance will be read publicly for the first time this Thursday, whereupon it will be referred to a standing committee for public hearing. Earlier, we reported that the council held an executive session to discuss the proposed ordinance, which is a clear violation of Indiana's Public Meetings Open Door Law. The Tribune's Jamie Loo reports:

The debate over changing the human rights code to include gay, lesbian and transgendered people has become a written ordinance proposal before the Common Council. This is the first time the proposal has been written into ordinance form for the council to consider.

The ordinance, written by council members Charlotte Pfeifer, D-2nd, and Roland Kelly, D-3rd, is set for first reading Thursday but won’t be up for discussion or a vote at that time.

According to council procedures, the ordinance likely will be referred back to a council standing committee for a public hearing on a different date. Another public hearing before the full council would happen on the bill’s second reading and then formally voted on after the bill’s third reading.

The proposed amendments to Article 9 of the city human rights code add protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, education and access to public accommodations.

The proposal exempts religious organizations in cases in which the protections may “affect the definition, advancement of the missions, practices or beliefs” of that group.

If South Bend adopts the proposed ordinance, it will become the third Indiana city to protect persons from discrimination based on both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity"; Indianapolis and Bloomington are the other two cities. Several other communities, including Ft. Wayne, Michigan City, Lafayette and West Lafayette, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.

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