Vanderburgh County Adds LGBT Protection

Living life in fear, people tell their stories of hate and discrimination. A harsh reality check for some, who don’t always recognize the struggle of their Tri-State neighbors.

Dozens of people filled a meeting room Tuesday night at Evansville’s Civic Center to see how county leaders hope to fight the problem.

“My dad thinks it's within your right to shoot me for being transgender,” says Max Hedon, “whether or not you agree with that, me being transgender, doesn't matter.”

Vanderburgh County Commission beefs up its anti-discrimination ordinance, but some wonder if it has the teeth to make a difference.

Dozens spoke for and against the ordinance which is almost identical to one Evansville already has with one major exception. This is a voluntary ordinance, meaning it may not do anything at all.

Rupert Russert spoke against the measure, saying it could create a “slippery slope,” while others urged officials to look at facts and not vote on emotion.

“I think it's the right step in the right direction,” says Wally Paynter with Tri-State Alliance.

The ordinance adds protections for people who feel they have very little. It gives anti-discrimination measures against someone based upon age, gender, or sexual orientation.

If someone files a discrimination complaint, the Human Relations Commission will offer to be a mediator and investigate. But under the voluntary ordinance, the person or business on the receiving end isn't forced to comply.

“You are not in any way shape or form creating a protected class,” says David Kent, attorney for the HRC, “unlike race, disability, age.”

The HRC hopes to gather data from complaints to see if the county has a larger discrimination problem. “We view this as an information gathering tool,” Kent says.

Some consider the measure an unnecessary action.

“Is it real or is it not real?” asks Angela Hall holding paper on a wooden stick, “I have something to show you,” she says, “This is a cow. I'm not a cow. I'm a woman.”

But the people who feel they need protection take off their mask tonight in front of three county leaders.

“I’d ask you, please excuse my appearance but it's kind of part of the whole thing,” says Trevon Jones.

County Commission voted 2 to 1 in favor of the ordinance. President Bruce Ungenthiem was the lone no, saying he opposed the specific list: age, gender, sexual identity. He added he would rather see a broader anti-discrimination law.

But Jones and others on the LGBT side are glad to see it happen. “One good step in the right direction, towards making sure I have the same right that you have.”


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