The Hutchinson City Council Tuesday moved a step closer to amending its anti-discrimination ordinance to provide limited protection to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.The meeting was moved to Memorial Hall to accommodate the more than 200 people in attendance. After lengthy public debate, the council voted 3-2 to approve the wording of an ordinance.
If it receives final approval, the ordinance would protects gays, lesbians and bisexuals from employment termination and housing eviction in the Hutchinson city limits. It offers no such protection for members of the transgender community.
Councilman Bob Bush, who worded the proposal, said it was "the best way to protect both sides of this issue."
The way it's written, the proposed ordinance would not prohibit discrimination against LGBT persons during the hiring process or when looking for housing.
Supporters of an ordinance said the wording didn't go far enough, but was a step in the right direction.
"It sends the message that Hutchinson is not totally opposed to adaption of being inclusive and being a community that wants to make a difference and wants to be on the cutting edge," said Tim Whitmore.
At one point, members of the audience were asked to stand for an impromptu poll of the room. About three quarters of the audience stood in opposition to any amendment.
"Our rights as Christians should not be taken away," said Ilene Hougham. "No one's rights should be taken away for someone else's rights."
Critics of a broader amendment expressed concerns about churches being forced to rent their halls or facilities to people whose lifestyles conflict with the church's beliefs.
Tuesday's nay votes came from Councilman Dean Brigman and Mayor Dave Razo. The council is expected to cast a final vote on the ordinance June 5th.