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Montgomery City Council votes down non-discrimination ordinance

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:52 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A proposed non-discrimination ordinance designed to attract new businesses to Montgomery was unexpectedly rejected by the City Council Tuesday night.

The City Council voted 5-4 against the ordinance, which is designed to safeguard minorities’ rights from discrimination in housing, unemployment and other areas. The ordinance would have protected the rights of all people in Montgomery from discrimination by the city. It would have covered all sorts of categories, from age, race, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mayor Steven Reed, who proposed the new rules and is very passionate about the issue, said the council’s vote sends the wrong message.

“If I am asked ‘are we as a city committed to diversity equity inclusion of all people’ then I have questions about that. And I have questions on it, I cannot support it,” said Reed.

The proposal also would have created a 10-member Human Rights Commission to promote principles of diversity, inclusion and harmony through the city.

Reed says he’s concerned about the message the City Council sent by voting the measure down. He said it shows the city has a long way to go.

Reed said since it didn’t pass that he must recommend that businesses that share the values in the ordinance go to other cities that do have a non-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance was unveiled weeks ago, but Councilwoman Audrey Graham, who voted against it, said she still had unanswered questions. She said she felt bullied into making a decision.

“It need to be clear conscious because I have to answer to the people in my district about every decision I make and I want to be able to give a good answer,” Graham said.

The SPLC Action Fund responded to the vote with the following statement:

SPLC Action Fund applauds Mayor Steven L. Reed and the Montgomery City Council for taking up this critical issue. There is little doubt that a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) is needed in order to address the discrimination and racial inequities that have plagued Montgomery for decades.

“Attaining these protections remain a vital concern for Montgomery residents, who need and deserve an NDO that fully supports the communities it is created to protect. We look forward to revisiting the issue at the appropriate time with input from the mayor, city council and most importantly, the communities who are directly affected.

Montgomery residents who feel they are discriminated against still have legal recourse despite Tuesday’s City Council vote. Most of the protections in that proposed ordinance are already outlined in federal law.

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