Springfield Says Yes to Anti-Gay Discrimination

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A couple getting engaged at St. Louis' PrideFest. - RFT STREET TEAM
  • RFT Street Team
  • A couple getting engaged at St. Louis' PrideFest.

Last year, the city council of Springfield took a historic stand, extending the city's non-discrimination ordinance -- which governs housing, employment and public accommodations like parks and city pools -- to gay, lesbian and transgender men and women.

Last night, voters repealed it.

In a narrow margin, 51.43 percent voted to repeal the LGBT protections, while 48.57 percent voted to keep them.

The fight in the southwest Missouri city echoed the one in Indiana in recent weeks, where Governor Mike Pence had signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- which critics argued would open the door to businesses citing their religious beliefs even as they refused to serve gay weddings. Indiana lawmakers amended the law in the face of a national uproar.

But even Indiana's amended law offers LGBT residents no designated protections. Springfield's ordinance was initially passed to do just that.

The council voted 6-3 in October to add the special provision, but opponents quickly gathered enough signatures to either force a repeal or send it to voters. When the council declined to repeal, that kicked off a hard-fought campaign, as the Springfield News-Leader reported last night, and as one opponent to the measure put it, "a victory for the faith community."

Justin Burnett, who won a council seat Tuesday, supported the repeal of the ordinance. He said it was a win for small business and the faith community.

"The problem with the ordinance is that it had so many potential legal ramifications for businesses, for public safety, for the good of the city," he said. "There was no need for the ordinance."

He said he hopes the city can move forward. He says he believes his role is to "love all and serve all."

"A lot of people of faith thought this ordinance neglected their constitutional and God-given rights," he said. "So it is a victory for the faith community."

Expect to see a lot of furor directed at Missouri's third-largest city in coming days. The national media is already picking up on this story, only hours after the vote. And so while the election may be over, the controversy almost certainly is not.

See also: Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Missouri

See also: GOP Leaders Try, Fail to Stop Missouri From Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages

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