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By JOHN KLINE
GOSHEN — Discrimination or harassment based on gender identity is now officially prohibited when it comes to the hiring practices of Goshen city government following a meeting of the Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety Monday afternoon.
During Monday’s meeting, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman issued an executive order amending the city’s Discrimination/Harassment Policy to include “gender identity” as a protected class. The policy applies only to current or potential employees of Goshen city government, not the greater Goshen community.
Established on Oct. 26, 1998, the city’s Discrimination/Harassment Policy as originally written prohibited discrimination or harassment of employees or potential employees based upon race, color, religion, gender, physical appearance, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, veteran status, disability or the known association with a known disabled individual. Now “gender identity” has officially been added to that list.
Word of such a potential executive order was first raised by Kauffman back in August on the heels of an up-and-down push by Kauffman to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Goshen’s civil rights ordinance.
The Goshen City Council first voted down a similar proposal on second reading in 2009. Kauffman’s proposed amendment was set for a vote on Aug. 4, but ultimately an agreement to table the vote was made and council members instead facilitated a public hearing on the issue at the Goshen Theater. The meeting was attended by more than 400 people and dozens of people addressed the council, arguing both sides of the debate.
As first proposed back in August, Kauffman’s planned executive order adding “gender identity” to the city’s hiring policy would also have required “mutual voluntary mediation” overseen by the Goshen Community Relations Commission when cases of potential discrimination arose. However, such a requirement was not included in the executive order approved Monday.
Kauffman, who is retiring at the end of this year after nearly 20 years in the mayor’s seat, said he had considered extending the executive order to include the general public in addition to current and potential city employees, though he ultimately decided against it due to concerns about enforceability.
“I considered doing this for the general public too, but I’m not convinced that the Community Relations Commission has the resources to follow through if there are discrimination complaints at this point,” Kauffman said. “And, with the state legislature dealing with this issue, and possibly overriding any local ordinances, I didn’t want to do it any further than applying to the city’s hiring practices at this point.”
The legislation Kauffman is referring to, filed back in mid-November as Senate Bill 100, would extend state civil rights protections to Indiana’s LGBT citizens, though it would also include exemptions for religious institutions and some small businesses that object to working with LGBT people. Should the bill become law, it would bar local governments from enforcing protections stricter than its statewide protections.
In recent months, Carmel, Columbus, Terre Haute, Zionsville, Hammond, Muncie and Anderson have adopted ordinances adding protections for LGBT residents, joining Indianapolis, Bloomington, South Bend and about a dozen other Indiana communities that already had LGBT protections on the books.
Indiana lawmakers are set to consider the new bill during the upcoming 2016 legislative session.SHARE THIS STORY