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Task force makes recommendations on Springfield discrimination ordinance

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- A Springfield task force recommends the city not hold a public vote on any ordinance regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying it could create divisions and harm the city's reputation.

The task force's top recommendation in a report issued Wednesday was that the Springfield City Council pass an ordinance guarding against discrimination only in housing. But in a secondary recommendation, the task force supported broader protections in housing, employment and public accommodations, if that ordinance contained religious exemptions, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/1ba9aSi ).

Mayor Bob Stephens estimated it would be several weeks before council takes action on the recommendations.

The task force supported the housing-only ordinance by a 12-3 vote, while the broader ordinance was favored 9-6.

"Because of existing extra federal protections ... to guard against housing discrimination, a non-partisan majority of the Task Force felt this incremental step to offer full protection to the LGBTQ population, in regards to housing only, represented an ordinance change most acceptable to Council and the citizens of Springfield," the report says.

The Federal Housing Authority and lenders, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, already guard against discrimination when issuing loans, the report said.

The recommendation for the broader nondiscrimination ordinance includes exemptions to allow religious organizations to limit sale or rental of housing to people of the same religion and generally give preference to those of the same religion.

No other possible alternatives received a majority vote of the task force. A recommendation to send the ordinance to a public vote was rejected.

"We recognize this may be the ultimate outcome to any Council action on an expanded non-discrimination ordinance. Discussion of the potential harm to Springfield's reputation in the wake of a potentially divisive campaign and vote left this option with only one vote of support," the report says.

The report said determining the need for a nondiscrimination ordinance was difficult because affected groups had never had their rights legally protected, which left them with no official means to report a complaint.


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

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