Much slimmer NDO heads for Montevallo City Council

By NANCY WILSTACH / Special to the Reporter
 
MONTEVALLO – The proposed Montevallo Human Rights Commission is gone, but a three-member committee has completed its task of sending a proposed non-discrimination ordinance to the Montevallo City Council for consideration.
Councilman Jason Peterson, chairman of the NDO committee, said that he was “satisfied that we are moving forward” with codifying the city’s extension of civil rights protection to LGBTQ individuals.
Councilman Matt Walker echoed the sentiment, while Councilman Rusty Nix answered “no” when asked if he were satisfied with the edited version of the proposed ordinance.  Nix has been the least favorable to the NDO, while Walker has been skeptical primarily of its potential reach.
The committee Thursday evening ripped one entire section out of the draft that has been bouncing around on council agendas for more than a year.  That was the section that would have created a Montevallo Human Rights Commission to act as a quasi-grand jury to consider complaints filed and decide whether they merited prosecution.
The entire section creating the HRC and setting its duties and responsibilities was deleted.  Instead, anyone alleging discrimination under the ordinance will talk to the city clerk who will try to resolve the matter informally. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to seek a warrant from the municipal magistrate which would put the matter in municipal court as a criminal misdemeanor.
The idea for an NDO originated with the Montevallo Acceptance Project (MAP) about two years ago. MAP’s goal has been to extend the protections of existing civil rights legislation to LGBTQ individuals. State and federal law already in place protects against discrimination in housing and employment based on race, religion, disability, national origin, age and sex.
However, no state or federal law protects LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
The ordinance specifically exempts churches.
According to MAP’s research, some 400 cities and counties nationwide protect LGBTQ persons under NDOs, including Birmingham, Atlanta and Jackson, Miss.
Walker proposed the changes to the NDO to remove the Human Rights Commission and to eliminate the words “real or perceived” in the statement of purpose and in the definitions section. Now the proposed ordinance strives to prevent “discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or veterans status.”
The earliest possible council vote would be during the Feb. 12 council meeting.