Six months after it was enacted, Springfield voters repealed an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents from discrimination.
The city council had voted 6-3 in October to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
Opponents, who voiced concern about religious freedom and the potential effect of the ordinance on the use of bathrooms across the city, gathered enough signatures to force council to either repeal the expansion or send it to the ballot box. The city council tabled the measure, which automatically set up the vote.
Final results of the Tuesday vote were close, 51.4% to repeal vs. 48.6% not.
“Momentum really turned in the last weeks,” said Calvin Morrow, spokesman for the campaign to repeal gay rights in Missouri’s third largest city. He had questioned whether discrimination against gay and lesbian residents actually happened in Springfield and said the fight over the ordinance had left the city divided.
Justin Burnett, who won a council seat Tuesday, supported repeal of the ordinance. He said it was a win for small business and the faith community.
“A lot of people of faith thought this ordinance neglected their constitutional and God-given rights,” he said.
At least 225 cities and counties across the USA prohibit hiring and housing discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT equal rights.
In Missouri, at least six cities including Kansas City and St. Louis as well as St. Louis County have an ordinance, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
PROMO, the Missouri-based gay-rights advocacy group, puts the number at a dozen cities and two counties, including Jackson County that has Kansas City. All but two of the smaller locales — college towns Columbia and Kirksville — are St. Louis suburbs.
“People have worked so hard on this. We’ll rest tonight and we’ll regroup tomorrow,” Krista Moncado of the GLO Community Center, a gay and transgender organization in Springfield, said after the results were made final.