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Springfield council tables ordinance changes

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Springfield’s city council has voted to appoint a task force to resolve issues between supporters and opponents of a proposal to add gender identity and sexual orientation to an anti-discrimination ordinance.

The council had been expected to vote Monday on whether to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity or to put the proposal to a public vote. Instead, it voted 7-2 to postpone action on the ordinance and appoint the task force.

The issue had drawn passionate debate for weeks, with hundreds attending the council’s Aug. 13 meeting and another 150 signed up to speak on Monday.

Supporters and opponents said the delay is a mixed victory, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/PLm8tR ).

Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, part of a national network of sexual orientation and gender identity advocacy organizations, said the delay was better than putting the issue to a public vote, where it would likely be defeated.

“It’s discouraging that there will be a time period when people won’t be protected,” Perkins said. “There was something the City Council could have done to protect some of its citizens, but we’re looking forward to a civil dialogue.”

The Rev. Mark Kiser, president of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, noted that the council appeared ready to approve the ordinance last month but delayed action indefinitely after religious opposition emerged.

“It was a huge victory on Monday, Aug. 27th,” said Kiser. “But there is a great chance that this is going to come up again, so we’ll have to be ready to do this again.”

Opponents had already vowed to gather petitions to repeal the ordinance if it was passed, and some said Monday they wouldn’t support the ordinance in any form.

Live Free Springfield said in a news release that it was “encouraged” by the council’s new direction, saying the move seemed to be influenced by “the impressive response we in opposition have shown in solidarity against this ordinance.”

Kelly Johnson, a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, said the sides had reached a stalemate.

“We have some hope for potential dialogue,” Johnson said. “We have room for negotiation and discussion.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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