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Carmel City Council delays vote on anti-discrimination ordinance

September 21, 2015

A vote on Carmel’s proposed anti-discrimination ordinance has been delayed until at least early next month, despite several City Council members' wishes to move it forward.

Council finance committee chairwoman Luci Snyder kept the ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, in the committee after a hearing last week.

City Council president Rick Sharp tried to override that decision Monday night and allow the full council to discuss the proposal, but he didn’t have enough support.

Snyder, along with council members Eric Seidensticker, Carol Schleif and Kevin Rider, voted against pulling it from the committee level. Sharp and council members Sue Finkam and Ron Carter supported the action.

“I never intended for this item to go to committee,” Sharp said. “This is an item of intense interest. It’s an item of intense emotion.”

Several council members have expressed an interest in adding definitions to certain terms and clarifying the fines and appeals process.

In addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, the ordinance also prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, gender, disability, family or marital status, ancestry, age or veteran status. The proposal would apply to businesses, housing, public accommodations, education, employment, contracts, programs, services and amenities. Religious entities or clergy engaged in religious activities, not-for-profit memberships organized exclusively for religious purposes or not open to the general public, and private residences or gatherings would be exempt. Maintenance of separate restrooms or dressing rooms would not be required.

Anyone violating the ordinance could be charged a $500 fine plus attorney’s fees for each offense and for each person and each day the violation continues.

“Everybody here is not in favor of discrimination,” Snyder said. “The business community really thinks this is important, and it is.”

Several representatives from the newly formed Tech for Equality advocacy group attended the meeting and spoke during the public comment period, including PolicyStat President Steve Ehrlich and NextGear Capital Chief Technology Officer Bryan Everly.

Former Angie’s List Inc. CEO Bill Oesterle announced last week that he would be launching Tech for Equality to advance rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals across the state.

Oesterle is leading the group, along with Megan Robertson, who formerly ran Freedom Indiana. So far, 30 companies and individuals have joined Tech for Equality.

Sharp restricted the speakers to those who didn’t address the council at the previous meeting in August when more than two hours of testimony was heard, and he limited comments to two minutes. About 10 people spoke in regards to the ordinance, mostly in favor of it.

Oesterle had been expected to speak, but did not arrive at the meeting in time. Instead, Robertson spoke on behalf of Tech for Equality and urged the council to consider passing the ordinance during the meeting.

“Tech for Equality hopes you take the opportunity to lead,” Robertson said. “Don’t delay it any longer. You’ve heard from everybody.”

Snyder is expected to schedule a special finance committee meeting next week so the issue can be discussed at the next full council meeting Oct. 5.

Oesterle said after the meeting that his group will attend the October meeting to show support.

“If you want a great technology community, this has to be built into it,” Oesterle said. 

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