More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote what some consider the most potent sentence in American history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Although not without struggle, Americans have come to understand that the concept of equality is without meaning if applied in an unequal way. We cannot abide by discrimination without abandoning the very ideals that prompted the founding of our great country. And as thoughtful citizens we have enacted laws to ensure that the “unalienable rights” Mr. Jefferson spoke of are not withheld due to one’s race, gender, faith, or national origin.
On Tuesday night, the City of Maplewood will take a final vote upon Bill 5877, an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance before the Council is similar to those passed in more than a dozen U.S. States, as well as several St. Louis County municipalities, including Richmond Heights. The ordinance also reflects policies that have been adopted by a myriad of businesses, such as Walt Disney, Ford Motor Company and our own Anheuser-Busch.
The ordinance proposed will not create any specific ‘special’ protections or brand new laws. It is a common sense adjustment to existing laws that already protect citizens based on gender, race, and national origin in employment, housing and public accommodation. It also would reflect Maplewood’s recognition of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, federal law that adds harsher punishments to those convicted of committing a “hate” crime motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Moreover, passing this ordinance would demonstrate Maplewood’s commitment to support its richly diverse citizenry and to protect residents and visitors that help make the city the vibrant place it is today. As members of a community that celebrates diversity in all forms, and as the relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow parishioners of those who identify as LGBT, I hope you will join me in urging the Maplewood City Councilmembers to vote in favor of Bill 5877. I believe Mr. Jefferson, who wrote that “bigotry is the disease of ignorance”, would approve.
Councilmember, City of Richmond Heights