SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A fight is gearing up over whether Springfield voters will be asked to decide the fate of a new ordinance that adds protection against discrimination in housing and hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Springfield City Council approved the ordinance Oct. 13, but opponents quickly began a petition drive to repeal it by forcing a public vote on the issue. They have submitted petitions with more than 2,500 signatures, which have not yet been certified.
About 150 supporters of the ordinance began planning their political campaign to defend it this week, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/1wSZZPs ). The campaign committee, called One Springfield, is registering with the Missouri Ethics Commission, and about $20,000 has already been pledged, according to Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
PROMO has committed $10,000 in donations and another $10,000 of in-kind support, while two groups — the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks, and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays of the Ozarks — have pledged $5,000 each.
Perkins said that's a significant amount, she expects to be outspent by ordinance opponents.
Group member Kellie Rohrbaugh told supporters Monday that the effort will include targeting frequent voters, traditional campaign ads and using social media, testimonials and letters to the editor to state their case.
"It's stories that change people's hearts and minds," said Kathy Munzinger, president of PFLAG of the Ozarks. "It becomes personal."
Opponents have said the nondiscrimination bill violates their religious freedoms by preventing them from operating a business according to their religious beliefs. Others have claimed that sexual predators would be allowed to use women's restrooms and have questioned whether discrimination against gay and lesbian residents actually occurs.