Kirkwood is the latest St. Louis-area municipality to consider an ordinance that would protect residents from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Last week, the city council gave preliminary approval to the measure. If approved, Kirkwood would become the 11th municipality in Missouri to approve similar measures. And just a few weeks ago, the county itself passed gay-rights legislation that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination in unincorporated areas.
The municipalities that have such measures include the first community to do so, University City, which did so in 2003. Then Olivette did so. The Riverfront Times reports that the 10 municipalities in Missouri also include: St. Louis, Kansas City, Richmond Heights, Maplewood, Ferguson, Clayton, Columbia and Creve Coeur.
A Kirkwood resident read this letter in an earlier meeting on the subject: "I have had more than one experience of being afraid in Kirkwood, because there aren't the protections for me, or for my partner, or for our gay friends," wrote Maggie Duwe, vice-chair of the Human Rights Commission. "But even more than the specific times of feeling afraid, it's about feeling the possibility of danger, the possibility of being made to leave somewhere, anywhere, at any time, by anyone or of being told that someone won't sell us a house, only because of who I love."
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's report on the hearing last week, opponents wondered whether this was redundant. Don't state and federal laws already protect against this sort of discrimination? Are these municipal ordinances needed?
The Post-Dispatch quoted resident David Geger: "I don’t see the need for any further rights for a special group."
What do you think? Are these local ordinances needed to protect all residents of our communities from discrimination? Are they duplicative? Does it matter?