Springfield Trans-inclusive Gay-rights Measure Approved
Council adds sexual orientation to existing discrimination ban
[SPRINGFIELD, IL] - An 8-1-1 Springfield City Council vote Tuesday made the capital city the latest Illinois community to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Supporters, many wearing circular purple stickers reading "Vote Yes!" stood and applauded in the packed council chamber when the vote was recorded.
"By voting in favor of adding the words 'sexual orientation' (to the anti-discrimination ordinance), we are saying let's get over discrimination," said the Rev. David Morganseay, pastor of Springfield's Heartland Community MCC, which serves the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. "Let's make Springfield, Illinois, a city that will not tolerate discrimination or hate."
Morganseay was one of 15 members of the public who went before aldermen Tuesday to express their views on the ordinance, which adds sexual orientation to the list of reasons a person cannot be discriminated against in matters of housing, employment, credit and other matters.
The list also includes race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, handicap and, in housing matters only, familial status.
Ward 6 Ald. Roderick Nunn voted no, while Ward 9 Ald. Tom Selinger voted present.
Nunn said he is worried about the effect the ordinance will have on religious-based employers.
"My concern is that this kind of whittles away at their constitutional right," he said of the ordinance that affects businesses with 15 or more employees. "The scenario I had in my head was if I'm the director of a Christian education academy, and I'm hiring a educator, and my educational philosophy is bounded in principles of morality and biblical teaching, then I should be able to not hire that person."
That was the point made earlier in the evening by Jason Craddock, a Springfield attorney.
"What these amendments will do is force us to violate our consciences, which would be a violation of our First Amendment rights to freely exercise our religion," he said. "... It prefers homosexuals over Christians who want to obey the scriptures."
Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, a statewide gay and lesbian civil rights group, said the ordinance does not violate religious rights.
"As a practicing and faithful Roman Catholic, I would be the first person to stand here and oppose this legislation if it infringed on my church's right, my church's obligation, my church's responsibility to preach and teach and carry out its ministry according to its tenets," he said.
"In the 12 Illinois jurisdictions that this legislation has been enacted, no religious institution has been harmed," he added.
Selinger said he did not take a position on the ordinance because he feels the city should have waited until state legislators again take up the matter, which is likely this spring.
"It's a very serious issue, and it's going to be debated pro and con, and you're going to hear a lot more than the few folks that gathered here," Selinger said. "You're going to hear people from around the state, and we're all going to have to live with this new law.
"I'm not in favor of discrimination, by no means, but I think it will be more broadly discussed at the state Capitol."
One opponent said he doubted whether such an ordinance is even needed in Springfield.
"Have your phones been ringing off the wall with complaints from people saying there are hundreds of these cases going on?" asked Dale Powell, who lives on Lemont Drive. "We don't see much in the papers. I don't hear much among my friends at work. I really question whether we need such an ordinance if there's not a problem."
Gail Clodfelter, the mother of a gay teenage son and president of the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said there is a problem in Springfield.
"My son lost a part-time job at an ice cream shop because of who he is and because of being gay," she said. "I've met kids that are called fags or dykes on a regular basis or beaten up at school because they are gay or lesbian or because they are perceived gay or lesbian."
In other action Tuesday, aldermen helped pave the way for planned renovations to the Pope John Paul I apartments at 12th and Adams streets.
By a 10-0 vote, the council approved issuing $3.5 million in revenue bonds on behalf of Urban Innovations Co., which has been making plans to buy the apartments from the current owner, the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
Urban Innovations would be responsible for paying off the bonds.
The company has pledged to keep the units affordable for low-income senior citizens, which makes up the current population of the high- rise.
Action agenda: Annexation agreement for property at 3301 Old Jacksonville Road, 10-0; annex property at 3301 Old Jacksonville Road, tabled; $35,695 contract with Lake Springfield Marina to purchase a patrol boat and trailer for the police department, withdrawn; annex property at 3700 East Lake Shore Drive (state police academy), tabled; 36 items on consent agenda, 9-0.
All aldermen present.