The Associated Press State & Local Wire
DATELINE: SOUTH BEND Ind.
South Bend City Council members have approved an ordinance extending employment and housing discrimination protection to gays and lesbians, with supporters saying the move will improve the city’s business prospects.
The council’s 6-3 vote early Tuesday came after nearly five hours of debate and public testimony about the proposal. The ordinance exempts churches and other religious organizations, but opponents argue it should also exempt individuals and business owners who believe homosexuality is immoral, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg told council members he believed the city should join others across the country with similar measures. He said the council’s vote was a test of how well Indiana’s fourth-largest city handles diversity.
“In today’s economy and today’s competition for talent if we fail that test, if we remain outside the American mainstream any longer South Bend could be typecast as a prejudiced and backward-looking community and our economic comeback will be that much harder to bring about,” Buttigieg said.
Several other Indiana cities have similar ordinances and the South Bend proposal is modeled after an Indianapolis ordinance adopted in 2005.
The South Bend council defeated similar proposals in 2006 and 2010.
Democratic councilman David Varner, who voted against the ordinance, said he worried the measure would lead to some business owners deciding to avoid the city. Other opponents said they believed the ordinance went beyond tolerance.
“This is about forced public endorsement. This is about preference,” said Patrick Mangan, executive director of Citizens for Community Values. “It is not about equal rights it is about special rights.”
The council’s action will make it illegal in South Bend to deny people access to education, employment, housing and public places based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, and allow the city’s Human Rights Commission to hear and investigate those types of discrimination claims.
City ordinances already include such protections in regard to race, gender, religion, disability, national origin and ancestry.
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