City hears reading of gay-rights legislation

The measure would add gay workers, residents to nondiscrimination code.

SPRINGFIELD — After a months-long public battle, commissioners voted to hear a first reading of proposed legislation that would add gay workers and residents to the city’s nondiscrimination code.

Supporters and opponents have voiced their positions at length in often standing-room-only commission meetings since late August.

Equality Springfield representatives in August told commissioners they were frustrated by the commission’s lack of progress on the matter.

The group had previously asked the commission to consider legislation in an April 2011 forum.

Commissioners voted to table the ordinance in late September and referred it to the city’s Human Relations Board.

The board was split 4-3 with the majority finding “no compelling evidence of discrimination to substantiate changes,” board Chairwoman Dedria Moore said before a December commission meeting.

“It’s hard to assert that there’s no discrimination in Springfield. That’s a difficult position to maintain,” said Rick Incorvati, president of Equality Springfield, based on what he said are specific examples of discrimination presented to commission, the board and in an independent report by his group.

Ardent opponent Jason Stevens reaffirmed the opposition’s view that there is no evidence of true sexual orientation discrimination.

“I believe that we are a very tolerant community, not a hate-based community. Just that we believe that homosexuality is a choice and a bad one, like it says, ‘Hate the sin, not the sinner,’ ” Stevens said. “I will ask again that the city commission, please, ask Equality to obtain the signatures on their own and put them on the ballot for the community to vote on this issue.”

Mayor Warren Copeland and Commissioner Karen Duncan have both said publicly they would vote in favor of such an amendment. Assistant Mayor Joyce Chilton and Commissioners Kevin O’Neill and Dan Martin all said prior to Tuesday they wanted more information before they voted.

Several other major Ohio cities have passed such legislation.

Commission is expected to vote on the measure Feb. 28.