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Green Bay council approves equal rights ordinance

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – Discrimination has no place in the City of Green Bay, according to city council following the approval of a first reading of an equal rights ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, Oct. 6.

District 1 Alder Barbara Dorff brought forward the idea after she learned the city didn’t have any anti-discrimination ordinances regarding housing.

Dorff, along with Mayor Eric Genrich, became the driving force behind the ordinance extending it to be all-encompassing to cover housing, employment and public accommodations.

“As individuals and as a community, we are an accumulation of our actions more than anything – not by our thoughts or our intentions, but our actions,” said Mayor Eric Genrich. “Green Bay is big enough for everyone, and it is our job as leaders to make room for everyone. And the actions that we have taken recently to create a diversity and inclusion coordinator position, to declare racism to be a public health crisis and hopefully tonight to advance this equal rights ordinance – these are important steps, and the actions stack onto one another to create an impression and a reality of welcoming and acceptance. And that is the culture that I dedicated to fostering here in Green Bay.”

The ordinance largely mirrors both state and federal law with respect to prohibited forms of discrimination, with the exception of the protected person definition.

Under state/federal law, a protected person is defined by sex, race, religion, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, lawful source of income, receipt of rental assistance, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, past or present military service, status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

The ordinance approved by council adds gender identity, gender expression, gender non-conformity and transgender status under the protected person definition.

Council removed the receipt of rental assistance classification.

It’s the city’s plan to follow up on this issue and work with all sides to bridge the gap.

The ordinance passed 9-3 (Alders Jesse Brunette, Chris Wery and John Vander Leest voted against), with the majority of the council agreeing it was long overdue.

“In a perfect world we would never need this ordinance,” said District 4 Alder Bill Galvin. “And I look forward to the day that that happens. But until then we need to have some things in place, things that reassure people that Green Bay is a place that will not tolerate any kind of discrimination whatsoever.”

Those who voted down the ordinance felt it was an overreach on the city’s part.

“Pretty much everything we consider equal rights is already covered in state or federal law, so what does that leave?” Wery said. “When you chisel down to it, it really seeks to codify notions such as gender expression, gender identity and gender nonconformity. This is what this is about. It seeks to force those notions on the people of Green Bay with the force of a $1,000 fine behind it. That being said, as many people have stated, we should treat each other with love and respect. Always. You always accept the person no matter who they are. That goes without saying. However, this ordinance demands that we play along with subjective reality claims. Guess what folks, we don’t have to accept radical change because some people’s feelings may be hurt.”

The ordinance also includes the creation of an Equal Rights Commission.

All nine members of the commission will be appointed by the mayor, which will include one alder.

The ordinance will have a second reading at the next city council meeting before it goes into effect.

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