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Craig Hosmer is in support of an ordinance to protect sexual orientation and gender identity against discrimination. Above, he’s pictured at an SBJ Economic Growth Survey forum in August.
SBJ file photo
Craig Hosmer is in support of an ordinance to protect sexual orientation and gender identity against discrimination. Above, he’s pictured at an SBJ Economic Growth Survey forum in August.

Council to revisit SOGI ordinance

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Springfield City Council next month is expected to revisit a citywide ordinance to protect sexual orientation and gender identity from discrimination — five years after the controversial issue saw council chambers repeatedly flooded with residents on both sides of the discussion.

Springfield law briefly protected sexual orientation and gender identity against discrimination within workplaces, housing, transportation and public accommodations. The SOGI ordinance passed through council in late 2014, but a petition brought the issue to ballot boxes. According to the Greene County clerk, voters narrowly repealed the ordinance by a 51.4% margin in the April 2015 elections.

Now, Councilman Craig Hosmer said it is time to try again. He’s asked Springfield’s city attorney, Rhonda Lewsader, to revise the 2014 SOGI ordinance.

“It’s the right thing to do. And things have changed pretty significantly, I think, in the last five years,” Hosmer said. “In 20 years, people will look back on this and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’”

Lewsader said the proposal can be brought as a council bill, but it could face another referendum that could put the SOGI ordinance back on the ballot; a new petition would be required. She said she is currently reviewing the 2014 ordinance for updates.

Back in 2014, council voted 6-3 in favor of the ordinance. At the time, Councilwoman Jan Fisk said the protections were needed to grow jobs by enticing businesses to the area.

“In order to grow and maintain a healthy economy, Springfield needs to be a welcoming city,” Fisk said in 2014. “We cannot build Springfield’s future by holding onto discrimination of the past.”

The recommendation to add protections for LGBTQ people came to council from Springfield’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Task Force in November 2013, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Following passage of the ordinance, the city clerk’s office received a referendum petition with 2,350 signatures to repeal the SOGI ordinance.

“It strikes directly at religious freedom,” said petition organizer Dick Hardy, founder of Springfield-based pastoral leadership consulting firm The Hardy Group, in 2015. “It says business owners don’t have the right to hire people of the moral character that they choose.”

Ashley Norgard, an associate with law firm Kutak Rock LLP, said some employers shy away from adopting such laws because of conservative values and liability.

Missouri is one of 28 states without discrimination laws related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which leaves 8.1 million LGBTQ people without protections, according to The Williams Institute, a law school think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Hosmer said the protections are the right thing to do for the economy and for Springfield residents, adding that culture has changed since council first approved SOGI.

“The city should be doing things that we think are on the right side of history,” he said.

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