Columbia's list of non-discrimination policies gets longer
COLUMBIA - The city council voted Monday night to make policy changes that will protect more people from discrimination.
Columbia’s City Council voted in favor of adding new categories to the protected list in the city’s non-discrimination policies. The policies already in place protect classes of individuals from discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment.
Right now, the city prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The city council approved the Commission on Human Rights proposal to add gender expression, receipt of governmental assistance, alienage or citizenship status, status as a victim of sexual or domestic violence and order of protection status to the city ordinances. City Council Member Michael Trapp said he has witnessed a need for these amendments.
"I worked at True North Domestic Violence Shelter and I know that there’s a need for that law because I saw employers penalize someone simply for being the victim of a crime."
By adding these categories, the city would provide protection for people in Columbia that is not provided for people at state and federal level.
Commission of Human Rights Chair Zach Rubin said, “There's a number of cities that have moved to include categories like these so we are moving to keep pace with those.”
Rubin said many of the changes are in response to the perfect score Columbia received on Municipal Equality Index.
"We have protection based off gender identity but they want protections for gender identity and gender expression because those are presented in different ways," Rubin said. "They can be complicated legally if not presented as two different ideas."
Trapp said adding these suggested categories goes beyond simply "being the right thing to do."
“Support for diversity and inclusion is an economic driver," Trapp said. "There are businesses that will not locate in communities where they don’t feel a diverse workforce is going to be treated well or that they don’t feel that the will be able to recruit a diverse workforce.”
Rubin said he is optimistic about the changess.
"The impact might be small it might be indecipherable to most people but if we can help just one person, then we've made a difference."