Montevallo to host forum to discuss ways to become all-inclusive

By EMILY REED / Special to the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – The city of Montevallo and the David Mathews Center for Civic Life will host an open forum Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. to discuss ways the city can be all-inclusive of individuals regardless of their sexual orientation.

“We had a group of individuals that wanted the same protection and rights that everyone else has,” Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost said. “They were interested in getting a non-discrimination ordinance passed. When the ordinance was presented to the council, there were members of the community that spoke up and voiced some confusion, and concern surrounding the ordinance because they felt like Montevallo was already an inclusive community. It became apparent that we needed to have a conversation, and it seemed appropriate to bring it to a public forum.”

The forum will be held at the University of Montevallo on Main building, located at 737 Main St.

The forums are designed to answer the question of how the city ensures that everyone, regardless of their individual sexual orientation or gender identity, feels and is safe, supported and affirmed in Montevallo.

Cost said she hopes the forum will allow individuals to become more understanding and to feel heard and valued.

“I think it is critical in this day and age, especially because there is so much division,” Cost said. “I really want people who feel differently about something to come and listen to why others see something different than they do.”

Mark Wilson, director of civic learning initiatives with the college of Liberal Arts at Auburn University will serve as a neutral moderator of the forum.

Cost said individuals will divide up into smaller, diverse, groups with a moderator at each table and someone taking notes at each table during the forum.

“We really want people to feel safe, and included in the community that they live,” Cost said. “It is important that we are all able to sit down and have conversations about topics like this.”

According to information posted on the forum’s Facebook page, state and federal laws protect the rights of certain individuals with regard to free and unfettered access to housing, employment and public accommodations.

“These laws, however, do not protect the rights of individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the post states. “In recent months, members of Montevallo’s LGBTQ community, along with many of their family members and friends, approached elected officials within the city’s government asking for equal protection under the law, at least as far as is within the city’s power to provide.”

The forum is free and open to the public.