Discrimination still acceptable in Springfield


In a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Springfield city commission voted against amending its human rights code, which would have added sexual orientation to the city’s list of attributes requiring anti-discrimination protection.

Which, of course, means the city of Springfield may continue to discriminate against people with same-sex tendencies.

Not that that ever happens, opponents of the amendment argued.

In December, Springfield’s volunteer Human Relations Board determined in a 4-3 vote that there was, “no compelling evidence of discrimination to substantiate changes.”

The conclusion may as well have been: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not a problem in Springfield, Ohio, so we’re going to continue to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland and Commissioner Karen Duncan backed the measure.

They were outnumbered, though, by Assistant Mayor Joyce Chilton and commissioners Dan Martin and Kevin O’Neill.

Remember, the three politicians didn’t oppose the amendment because they support discriminating against homosexuals, but because the topic isn’t a problem in the city.

It’s kind of like a legislative body in the south during the 1960s rejecting an amendment to include race to the municipality’s anti-discrimination laws, citing no real issue with racism.

Apparently for Ms. Chilton, Mr. Martin and Mr. O’Neill, tolerance is an attribute best kept shoved deep in the closet, no pun intended.

There may not be issues of widespread discrimination in Springfield proper, I admittedly lack hard evidence to the contrary, but even a single incident of discrimination should be met with a clear response that intolerance of any kind, for any reason is not acceptable.

By voting down this amendment all these politicians did is further disenfranchise a group that is already largely disregarded and too frequently written off.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the group Equality Springfield, an organization that functioned as a leading proponent of this amendment.

In addition to occasionally lobbying for common sense gay-rights legislation, Equality Springfield also reaches out to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender students in the Springfield area and those students meet weekly at a church of which I am also a member on the north side of town.

Try telling any one of the largely misunderstood high school students in this group that LGBT discrimination is not a problem in Springfield.

I’ll concede the mockery and ridicule sustained by a group of — what people like Commissioner O’Neill would likely consider — outcasts is not what the aforementioned legislation is directly about and I’m not trying to change the subject.

However, this now-rejected amendment wasn’t about just ensuring a same-sex couple won’t be denied a lease based on their sexual orientation. It’s about taking a stand and proclaiming that discrimination of any form is unacceptable.

If LGBT discrimination is in fact a non-issue in Springfield, then this amendment should have required little more than a rubber stamp.

Instead, what we have here is a situation where a group of city residents approached their legislators with what they perceived was a legitimate concern, only to be dismissed because the lawmakers lack the backbone required to stand up for what is right — the rights of their constituents — and are regrettably more inclined to cater to an unreasonable batch of homophobes with misguided moral beliefs.

I went there.

At the heart of this issue is the prevailing notion that homosexuality is a kind of “do not pass go, do not collect eternal salvation and go directly to Hell,” card.

How then does such a position reconcile with the kind of eternal grace and compassion practiced by Jesus?

Jesus taught love your neighbor as yourself.

And he didn’t follow that up by asking for your neighbor’s sexual orientation, either.

Nate Smith is an Examiner staff writer and ardent opponent of discrimination in all its forms. He can be reached at nsmith@examiner.org.