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Council Backs Protections for Gay Residents

The Kirkwood City Council has expressed its support of a ordinance that will protect residents from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Members of the Kirkwood City Council agreed to place an ordinance that would protect residents from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation on the next city council agenda after a heartfelt presentation from a member of the Kirkwood Human Rights Commission.

Maggie Duwe, vice-chair of the Human Rights Commission, read a letter to city councilors during a work session last week in which she spoke to the importance of protecting Kirkwood's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender (LGBT) community and noted discrimination she has faced in Kirkwood as a gay resident. In the letter, Duwe says:

I have had more than one experience of being afraid in Kirkwood...because there aren't the protections for me, or for my partner, or for our gay friends. But even more than the speciic times of feeling afraid... It's about feeling the possibility of danger..the possibility of being made to leave somewhere...anywhere... at nay time ..by anyone or of being told that someone won't sell us a house...only because of who I love. And that is very real. So for me, it is about protections for myself and for the people I care about.

Work on the ordinance that would prohibit discrimination relating to employment, housing and public spaces has been underway for the past year.

Duwe says in the letter that the issue is bigger than her and is about a vow she took as a member of the Kirkwood Human Rights Commission to end any form of discrimination.

"I hope people realize discrimination comes in all kinds of forms and none of it's good," she told Patch.

Duwe told Patch that she thinks some people are not aware of the level of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

After listening to Duwe's presentation, city councilors agreed to put a draft of the ordinance on its Dec. 6 agenda when they will take a first vote on the matter. The Council would then read the ordinance for a second time at its Dec. 26 meeting and make a final vote.

They also expressed their support for the anti-discrimination ordinance and called an effort to protect against discrimination of Kirkwood's LGBT community long overdue.

Kirkwood City Councilor Nancy Luetzow thanked Duwe for her presentation and said that the fact Kirkwood's LGBT community has been left out of anti-discrimination protections is an issue that needs to be rectified.

"Sexual identity and gender orientation has to be a part of (protections)," Luetzow said. "It's the right thing to do. Period."

Kirkwood Mayor Art McDonnell thanked the Human Rights Commission and City Attorney John Hessel for working together to draft the ordinance.

"This has been a good team effort," McDonnell said. "That means a lot to me."

The ordinance would allow residents to take any grievances regarding discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation to the attorney for the City of Kirkwood. A separate ordinance that will serve as an addition to the one presented to council will detail how the city will enforce protections.

Even though work still needs to be done regarding protections for Kirkwood's LGBT community, an effort to end discrimination against a group of residents took a decided move forward last week.

"It feels good that it's going in the right direction," Duwe said.

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Dan Johnson December 25, 2012 at 05:58 PM
"We know for certain that lesbian and gay individuals suffer harm to their physical and psychological health, and to their relationships and quality of life, as result of the shame, isolation and stigma accrued from their social and legal disenfranchisement." Dr. Chris Beyrer, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health The American Psychological Association : "Prejudice and discrimination have social and personal impact." "The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and anti-gay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, anti-gay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to find such support."

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