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By Anne Halliwell
The Bloomington Common Council unanimously passed an ordinance yesterday evening to protect gender and sexual minorities from discrimination.
The passage was a response to Indiana Senate Republicans’ introduction of Bill 100. If passed, it may extend protections for gender and sexual minorities, but also exempts religious individuals and businesses from punishment for discrimination.
Sponsor Darryl Neher of District 5 said the ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender to protected statuses like race, religion and disability.
“Indiana, under the guise of tolerance, is willing to take a step back,” Neher said.
The ordinance would make discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity subject to the same punishment as discrimination based on sex.
“It speaks to the direction to which our city has been leaning for some time,” Neher said.
Based on the ordinance’s text, the new guideline should provide the city with a strong defense against any businesses or employers who might argue it is possible to hire or fire an employee based on their status as a sexual minority.
Council Attorney Daniel Sherman said the ordinance would go into effect upon signing by Mayor Mark Kruzan.
Unlike similar ordinances Councilman Steve Volan brought up, the ordinance does not have to be written into code before it takes effect.
Stacy Jane Rhoads, the city’s deputy administrator and researcher, said though no appellate court has yet categorized discrimination against gender and sexual minorities as sexual discrimination, the 7th circuit court has an applicable case on its docket.
Rhoads said three categories of entities would be exempt from municipal jurisdiction: nonprofits with a religious base, religious schools, or charitable institutions or social clubs that were not brought together for profit.
She specified that secular nonprofits and contracted companies with more than six employees living and working in Bloomington would be held accountable to the ordinance.
Councilman Marty Spechler of District 3 said though future judicial rulings and legislation might require some further discussion, the ordinance “does a good job of expressing good intentions.”
The eight council members present commended Neher for his work.
“Hopefully this will send a message to Indianapolis that we understand that all (people) have rights and should be respected,” Chairman Tim Mayer said. “Unfortunately, I don’t see that with our current leadership.”
The Democratic council is certain members of the Indiana Senate will show support of the ordinance, Neher said.
He encouraged attendees to speak to Republican leaders, as those votes will have to change in order to keep Indiana from enacting a law that he said would be “like RFRA times two — times three — times four.”
“I hope that we as a community will rally,” Neher said. “That fight, really, in the next three or four months, I hope will find members of our council, members of our community up there in Indianapolis.”SHARE THIS STORY