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Passionate debate over a hot button city ordinance brought out more people than Springfield City Hall could hold.
Fire Chief David Hall tells KTTS News 461 people showed up to attend the council meeting. Only 281 were allowed inside due to fire code. Most came because of a proposed ordinance adding sexual preference and gender identity to the city's protections against discrimination.
The City Clerk says at least 46 people signed up to speak in support of the ordinance and 31 against. Council capped the public hearing at three hours. To get as many people in as possible, the typical five minute limit for each speaker was cut to three minutes.
Some who spoke, like former City Councilman Nick Ibarra and pastor Mark Kaiser shared their fears that local businesses would suffer if the ordinance passes. They say it unfairly trumps a business owner's right to hire whomever they wish. Many agreed, saying businesses would face potential law suits if they pass up a member of the LGBTQ community for employment.
Several ordinance supporters disagree, saying nine other cities in Missouri have passed similar measures and have seen no legal repercussions as a result.
Other speakers suggested this kind of ordinance is redundant, stating they believe equal rights are already protected under state and federal law.
Many speaking in support of the ordinance said they were doing so because either they themselves or family members are members of the LGBTQ community. Some, like Joshua Castillo said they feared for their jobs if this ordinance is not passed. Others said if the measure fails, they worry what Springfield will look like to outside companies wanting to bring business here.
One thing is certain: City Council members will have a lot to mull over for two weeks before casting a vote at the next meeting.
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