Greenwood considers non-discrimination ordinance
GREENWOOD,Ind. (May 7, 2016)–The city of Greenwood is considering an ordinance that would protect people from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The process got underway last week as the Greenwood city council heard opinions from both sides of the issue.
The following is an interview with Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers to provide some background on the city’s efforts.
Question: What was the purpose of the discussion?
Mayor Myers: Our office was contacted by members of the community as well as by Matthew Smith, representing the LGBT community.
Matthew has reached out to us in the past asking why our city did not have such an ordinance.
In the past we waited on the state to move forward with Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Because the state did not include language to protect the LGBT, Matthew came back to us again an asked us to consider this.
Why is a non-discrimination ordinance needed in Greenwood?
Mayor Myers: We have quite a few people in the city that identify and associate with the LGBT community.
Also we have some very large businesses that have offered benefits to their employees, including same sex couples.
We want to these companies to see our city as non-discriminating.
As we move further down the road, we want Greenwood to be a community that is opening and welcoming to everybody.
What are you hearing from the LGBT community?
Mayor Myers: We have non-discriminatory clauses in ordinances now. We are being asked to add simple language that adds lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender, into the language
The city already has addressed this to a degree; In the employee handbook, hiring practices are non-discriminatory with LGBT language in hiring policies. Also in bids and contracts to all companies that wish to enter into contracts with the city, there is wording that states they are not allowed to discriminate. It spells it out.
Also, we have a fair housing ordinance that spells it out.
We have it (the language) in 4 different documents in the city.
But it does not spell it out as a city ordinance itself.
What are some of the things you feel should be included in such an ordinance ?
Mayor Myers: Specific wording that includes L.G.B.T.
It’s too early to say what else, that is what the study committee would look at.
We are looking at the wording of similar ordinances in other communities that have passed their own ordinances recently; Evansville, Kokomo, and Zionsville.
What are some of the things you are hearing from the public?
Mayor Myers: People’s values are different and they are sticking to their values. Some see this as an infringement of their rights for the city to oppose it.
I have received emails on both sides.
There have been many kind letters, some dissatisfied, some kind letters from those willing to assist in the process on both sides of the fence.
I am happy that people are wanting to get involved to help write or decide if we even need an ordinance.
What are the next steps in the process?
Mayor Myers: I will get together with Matthew Smith and two council members who have volunteered to be on a coalition to select a committee. I also met with Chris Paulsen, from Freedom Indiana – she is very well versed in assisting communities interested in writing an ordinance proposal.
Will some of those who have been outspoken against such an ordinance be asked to serve on the study committee?
Mayor Myers: Yes. And just to be clear, it’s not just about drafting an ordinance. It’s a study of the economic impact on the city. If it would be beneficial to the city, we would write an ordinance, and get with the council to move forward. At the end of the day it’s up to the council to decide if they will move forward with an ordinance. It’s up to them.
Has the state failed its communities by not taking action at the state level or is this an issue that needs to begin at the community level?
Mayor Myers: Honestly, I think it’s a state issue. They had the opportunity to do so in two sessions and did not. I feel the state failed the city on this.
I can’t give a timeline on the process. Its such hot button issue. Some cities have been able to get it done in a short amount of time while others have taken a couple of years.
Mayor Myers: For me, we have some very large companies located here and near Greenwood that offer these rights to their employees. We want their employees to reside in Greenwood and feel welcome in Greenwood. We want to be known as a non-discriminatory community. We want them to truly feel a part of Greenwood.
Our message: ‘Hey, we don’t discriminate. Everybody is welcome.’ that s my goal.