In what will likely be my last post related to Question 1, which appears on Tuesday’s ballot in Springfield, I simply want to clarify a lot of the rhetoric that is going around Springfield right now, in large part because there is a lot of misinformation out there. (For those of you outside of Springfield, Question 1 asks Springfield voters if they wish to repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance that adds protections related to sexual orientation and gender identity.)
1. Fact: If voters choose not to repeal the non-discrimination ordinance, bathroom and/or locker room predators and all who invade the privacy of others will still be breaking the law. “The ordinance does not make any changes around criminal conduct. Criminal conduct will continue to be prosecuted.” As such, “Anyone who tries to enter a woman’s restroom to harm, harass or invade the privacy of people will still be subject to arrest and prosecution.” In addition, among the 200 or so cities across the country (including 14 in Missouri) who have successfully implemented these kinds of laws, there has been no increase in public safety incidents. “All the evidence suggests an assault or crime of some nature is highly unlikely because of the ordinance.”
2. Fact: Religious organizations are exempt from this bill. As Springfield’s city attorney Dan Wichmer recently clarified, in contrast to what some religious leaders have mistakenly argued, “there’s explicit religious exemption for employment, for anybody that works for a religious entity or works for a religiously affiliated entity.” Furthermore, “Religious institutions are exempt from all nondiscrimination laws–they can choose to hire and fire whoever they want despite race, creed, sex, handicap, age, national origin and ancestry.”
3. Fact: Businesses will not be forced to hire lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender employees, and landlords will not be forced to rent to them. Furthermore, this ordinance does not require businesses to provide services that are in conflict with their values for reasons unrelated to age, race, creed, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or ancestry, sexual orientation or gender identity, nor does it require any employer to hire someone or to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of age, race, creed, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or ancestry, sexual orientation or gender identity. It only provides protections related to employment (e.g., a person can’t be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity), public accommodations (e.g., a person can’t be kicked out of a restaurant because of their sexual orientation or gender identity), and housing (e.g., a person can’t be evicted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity). A business cannot be forced to close in any way whatsoever based on this ordinance. An extended quote by one scholar commenting on federal law helps clarify this matter:
Businesses are free to discriminate for all kinds of reasons: you’re not wearing a coat and tie; the portraits you propose offend the photographer’s artistic sensibility, [etc.]…
Why is one kind of discrimination OK and the other is not?
It’s because we have a whole slew of federal and state laws that explicitly say that in public commerce, employment, and housing you can’t discriminate based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.
This list is not just randomly created to describe the glorious diversity of the human race.
Each of these categories is explicitly named because there’s an actual awful history of discrimination in commerce, employment, and housing for these specific reasons.
There’s also a long, tragic, brutal history of people losing jobs, housing, service, physical safety, and even life itself because someone else thought they were gay, lesbian, or transgender. So it’s not surprising that the federal government and a number of states and municipalities have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories explicitly protected against discrimination in commerce, employment, housing, and government services.
4. Fact: The Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights DOES NOT have investigatory powers related to this ordinance in any way whatsoever, including search and seizure of any kind. To again quote Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer, this ordinance makes “the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights explicitly advisory.”
5. Fact: Numerous cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity exist, but because there is no law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there’s no way of documenting it in a court of law. Documented cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are not on record in local courts of law because there is currently no law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
6. Fact: Pastors can still teach whatever they wish to teach about the Bible. “No ordinance restricts free speech for a pastor.”
8. Fact: This ordinance will not affect public school curriculum whatsoever. “Public school curricula is determined by the local school district. Private schools retain full control of their curricula. City ordinances do not have jurisdiction in the school system.”
9. Fact: This ordinance does not provide extra rights for people who are gay or transgender. According to Missouri State University constitutional law expert, Dr. Kevin Pybas, “Opponents of the anti-discrimination ordinance want to cast it as special rights that gays and lesbians are getting something others don’t get, but that’s hardly the case.”
10. Fact: No one will lose their constitutional right to freedom of speech. When it comes to legality, Dr. Pybas notes, this ordinance “is in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.”
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that Question 1 on the Tuesday ballot asks whether or not Springfield shall repeal the ordinance. Therefore, a “yes” vote is for repeal, while a “no” vote is for upholding the ordinance.