Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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August 18, 2009

Goshen council approves gay rights amendment to ordinance

Dozens of people Tuesday night passionately pleaded for and against the addition of sexual orientation language to Goshen’s Community Relations Commission ordinance.

After more than two hours of listening to members of a crowd that filled the Council chambers, the foyer and extended down the steps to the street, the council voted to add the wording.

The council vote was 4-3 in favor of the amendment. But the tally won’t be the last one taken. The council passed the amendment on first reading only, meaning the issue will come before the council again Sept. 1.

If the council’s vote stands in September, what will be added to the ordinance will be words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

The words will be inserted after the rundown on other reasons discrimination cannot be conducted in Goshen, which include race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry.

Eric Kanagy, who served on a task force that talked about the issue of discrimination against homosexuals for two months and then proposed the ordinance amendment, said some people have the perception that the amendment would force Christian organizations, including churches, to hire gays.

“That’s not true,” Kanagy said.

He said religious organizations have been given federal exemption from such requirements.

“In the end we are talking about discrimination,” he said. “...this is not a controversial issue in my mind.”

Kanagy said 43 employers in Goshen have similar anti-discrimination policies in place and six other Indiana cities have similar ordinances.

Michelle Marquis, also a member of the task force, said many members of Goshen’s homosexual community have found it hard to talk about discrimination against them.

“It’s been quiet not because there is no discrimination in Goshen,” she said, “just that there is no protection.”

She said the task force heard from many people, some of who don’t support homosexuality for religious reasons.

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