The City of Maplewood passed Ordinance 5877 at its regular council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, adding gender identity and sexual orientation to its city-discrimination protections.
The new law, which passed by a 4-to-3 vote, makes discrimination in housing and hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity a crime.
City Manager Marty Corcoran said at a previous meeting the language of the bill is based on the Richmond Heights and Clayton anti-discrimination laws, which recently added lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) provisions.
Councilmember Timothy Dunn voted in favor of the bill and has supported it since it first arrived on the agenda in May.
“This has been delayed for some time as we worked out the issues in the language,” Dunn said. “But you just can’t allow for anyone to be discriminated against, plain and simple. It’s un-American to discriminate.”
Dunn said Maplewood was the seventh city in the area to pass anti-discrimination protections like these. Others include Richmond Heights, Clayton, University City, Creve Coeur and St. Louis City. Dunn said 48 businesses had officially supported the measure.
Approximately 50 residents attended the meeting and more than a dozen addressed the council regarding 5877.
Maplewood resident Karen Lightfood was the first to speak. She opposed the measure.
“I don’t think this is about discrimination,” Lightfood said. “It’s about legislating morality. And you can’t, you can’t tell people they have to support a man having sex with another man. You can’t tell a church who they have to marry or who they have to welcome — that’s not religious liberty.”
Lightfood said she was concerned that churches or businesses refusing service to LGBTQ individuals could be sued as a result of Ordinance 5877.
The remaining speakers favored the measure. Rev. Rebecca Turner of the Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood said she had no concerns about her religious liberty resulting from Ordinance 5877.
“As a reverend, I can tell you I can refuse a marriage for anybody that I want,” Turner said. “Our church welcomes gay couples, but we don’t have to and we wouldn’t be punished if we didn’t. No lawsuit has ever been successful against a church refusing to marry a gay couple — that is simply false information.”
Municipalities in St. Louis County are beginning to add provisions protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination. State and federal law does not protect sexual orientation or gender identity from discrimination in housing or employment. Thus, it is legal in Missouri to terminate or evict an LGBTQ individual.
The city of Webster Groves currently has provisions in its city charter protecting race, color, sex, religion and national origin. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included.
“I can tell you we’ve had some inquiries lately about it,” said City Clerk Katie Nakazono. “But I’m not sure what’s happening with it.”
Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch could not be reached for comment.