They lined up at the microphone during the meeting's Privilege of the Floor session, where residents have up to three minutes to speak on any issue.
“Denial of human rights flies in the face of Christian beliefs,” said Nancy Nichols, pastor of Broadway Christian Parish United Methodist Church. “This is a quality of life issue for all people living in the Michiana area.”
The proposal, to amend the city's existing anti-discrimination ordinance, would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in employment, by either firing or refusing to hire, if the city's Human Rights Commission determines the action was taken (or not taken) because the individual is gay or transgendered.
It is being sponsored by council members Oliver Davis, D-6th; Ann Puzzello, D-4th; and Al “Buddy” Kirsits, D-at large.
In an indication that the vote will be close, Davis after the meeting said the trio expects to postpone the vote, now set for the council's July 12 meeting, to its July 26 meeting because not all council members plan to attend the July 12 meeting.
“I want everyone to weigh in on this because this is a major piece we have to consider,” Davis said, declining to say which members will be absent July 12.
When then-council member Charlotte Pfeifer sponsored a measure in 2006, extending protection for gays and lesbians across a broader array of areas such as education and housing, opponents fought it vigorously. At Monday night's meeting, no one spoke against it.
Tricia Wainscott, executive director of the GLBT Resource Center of Michiana, said she wasn't sure why that happened, but she was “happy” about it.
During the meeting, she told the council how much she had loved her social worker job at a South Bend hospital, until learning that her superiors wanted to fire her because she was lesbian. She ultimately was laid off, she said.
After Monday night's meeting, she said she was saddened to see a teenage girl become emotional at the podium after telling the council she is a lesbian and urging passage of the amendment.
Many of the youths in the GLBT Resource Center's youth group are shocked to learn that they can be fired from their jobs because they are gay, Wainscott said.
“By not passing this, you'd be hurting a lot of people,” Wainscott said. “By passing it, you'd be hurting no one.”
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Staff writer Jeff Parrott: