City leaders, community react to Fairness Ordinance passing first reading

Local News

In a 3 to 2 vote the fairness ordinance passed its first reading in Henderson. 

This comes after months of discussion and that didn’t stop Tuesday night.

About a dozen people were in the crowd to share their opinions, for and against the ordinance. 

It’s an anti-discrimination law prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, housing and accommodations. 

But since the draft was first introduced last month, a religious clause was added which had many outraged. 

“Adding this clause diminishes the impact of this ordinance,” said former mayor Joan Hoffman who has been backing the ordinance. 

There’s been a long push to get the fairness ordinance reinstated in Henderson after it was passed in 1999 but repealed a year later. 

“The LGBTQ right now if there’s a grievance they have no place to go,” said supporter Jayme Fruit. 

But a newly added religion clause caused a stir at its first reading. “We were a little blindsided that this clause was put in there,” said Fruit. 

It adds the protection and wording of the state’s Religious Restoration Rights Act, which prohibits the city from “substantially burdening a person’s freedom of religion.”

“You should not use your religion to take away the protections that other people should have,” said Fruit. 

Mayor Steve Austin says the clause is already state law, only added in for clarification. 

And while the ordinance passed, some still question its need. 

Commissioner Brad Staton reassured the crowd that he believes the ordinance is necessary. “We’ve had dozens and dozens of people reach out to us who haven’t had an avenue to reach out to be for telling us about discrimination they experienced in our community which is directly applicable to what were addressing through this law.”

Mayor Austin voted no saying he’s not in favor of pulling out certain groups in the community for fairness while others are not included in it. 

The ordinance will now move onto its second reading on June 25.

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(This story was originally published on June 11, 2019)

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