BREAKING: NOM diverts tour, heads to South Bend for City Council meeting tonight… NOMTourTracker.com to follow
July 26, 2010
by Eden James
We just learned from a source on the ground that NOM is breaking from its planned route to the next stop in Madison, Wisconsin, to cover a major event in South Bend, Indiana, three hours due north of Indianapolis (earlier report from today’s Indianapolis event).
Tonight, the South Bend Common Council will be voting for the fourth time on an amendment to the city’s human rights ordinance that protects residents on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity with respect to employment (PDF link. This is a letter by the sponsors filing the amendment. The meat of it is actually the FULL ordinance, and the UNDERLINED sections are the ADDITIONS to help LGBT people).
This will be our pro-equality side’s fourth attempt at winning the vote (previous versions of the bill pertained to housing AND employment). Two other cities in Indiana — Bloomington and Indianapolis — already has such an ordinance on their books. In 2006, we lost by a 5-4 vote. The hearing for the most recent vote went until midnight and we again lost by one vote. This time, we’re told our side has taken its time to ensure we win it, and that all our supporters show up.
Because we’re not the kind of organizers to let NOM go unchallenged, Courage Campaign’s trackers are responding in kind by breaking off the trail to head to South Bend as well. Arisha, Anthony, and Phyllis are headed straight there as you read.
If you are in South Bend, or nearby, please consider heading to the fourth floor of the County Council building to show your support and show NOM that we are going! The vote is at 7 pm, and it’s at the corner of Lafayette and Jefferson:
Indiana Family Institute, an anti-equality organization, is asking its supporters to gather at 3 PM local time in advance of the vote at 7 PM. We’ll have more details on our side’s plans to counter them as we confer with local organizers. For now, if you can make it, arrive early- we’re told it may be crowded.
Keep an eye on NOMTourTracker.com for more as it comes. We may continue to refresh this thread or create a new one for the event tonight, starting in less than three hours.
UPDATE BY EDEN: Our team arrived at the City Council meeting a little while ago and they are going to be posting updates soon. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, a post by NOM blogger Louis Marinelli claims that NOM is NOT diverting its tour to South Bend. Apparently, the information we got earlier was not accurate. Was it a head fake by NOM? Who knows, but it doesn’t much matter. We’ll be in Madison on Tuesday to document what happens at the next stop on the #NOMturnoutFAIL and we’ll be in South Bend tonight to document what happens with this amendment to the city’s human rights ordinance.
The more important question: Why is NOM avoiding the South Bend Common Council meeting? After all, it would seem to be a critical event directly connected to NOM’s mission. And it’s only three hours away from today’s tour stop in Indianapolis.
Is NOM concerned that anti-equality forces will lose the vote and they don’t want to be present for the embarrassment? Maybe they don’t want anyone to know about their association with some of the South Bend crazies that are bound to show up (based on what has happened in the past)?
Which is it, NOM?
UPDATE BY ARISHA:
From the noisy NOM rally in Indianapolis to a quiet overflow room at the South Bend City Council office, equality organizers in Indiana had their hands full on Monday.
More than 200 South Bend residents (about 80% seemed to be equality activists) sat quietly as the Common Council heard argument from proponents and opponents of Ordinance 30-10, a proposed bill that would amend an existing employment non-discrimination ordinance to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I only wish we could have this sort of turnout at other council meetings,” commented Councilman Henry Davis who later voted against the amendment because it violated “his moral fabric.”
“We tried this in 2006 and lost 5-4, but we’re hopeful,” stated Deb Drummond, a South Bend resident.
During the hearing, each side was given close to 45 minutes to present their cases in support, with a short rebuttal period at the end. Each councilmember then had an opportunity to comment.
Equality supporters stressed how an amendment of this nature would not have a large impact on the city, as whole – highlighting statistics indicating that claim increases would be marginal – and would serve to incentives more LGBT families to move to the city.
“A number of people have left here because they want to be in a place they’re protected,” stated Tricia Waynscott. “I’m not going to say this [ordinance] is going to change the climate entirely, but I think it will have some impact.”
“GLBT people, when they’re looking for a job and a home that’s one of the first things they look at,” continued Drummond. “I know it was for us; we ultimately decided to move [to South Bend] anyway.”
Opponents argued that an amendment would damage the small business owner leading to a negative impact on job growth in South Bend and further cited concerns about the religious exemption included in the amendment.
“One of the factors [small business owners] consider when choosing [a market] is local [law]” stated one opponent. “Why should a small business come here and stay here and have to deal with this legal risk? [. . .]Passing this ordinance would be a job killer.”
“We are wasting precious resources on an issue this is not about civil rights. [. . .],” stated another opponent of the ordinance. “Jesus never condoned this and the civil rights platform never supported it.”
In rebuttal, the Human Right Commission attempted to address the opponents’ concerns about the religious exemption.
“The [Human Rights] Commission is not going to be in a position to parse out religious doctrine,” a Commission representative stated attempting to reassure the council during rebuttal. “If a religious organization says that [they refused to hire someone because of religious purposes] [. . .] we will take them at their word.”
Councilman Rouse, who doesn’t seem quite inclined to support the amendment, made the following interesting statement:
“As far as I’m concerned, [the former-felon] is the most discriminated class in America,” Councilman Rouse said. “When you go to apply for a job, there’s a box asking whether you’ve ever been convicted – there is no box asking whether you’re” gay or lesbian.
“When we raised taxes, we didn’t get the hate mail we’re getting in this case,” stated Councilman Oliver Davis before making a motion to postpone the decision to address “vagueness concerns raised by opponents.”’