The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
It is rare when issues within the City of Murray are watched closely by students at Murray State. We typically stay within the bubble of University politics and don’t venture too far into the affairs of the city council. However, the debate to make revisions to the Human Rights Ordinance has both students and residents voicing concern.
The Murray City Council convened Nov. 13 to discuss the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people to the ordinance. Under the proposed revisions it would be “unlawful, based upon race, color, religion, natural origin, sex, age (over 40), gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status or physical disability of any type, to discriminate in employment, public accommodations or housing practices.”
As it stands, sexual orientation and gender identity are not included in the ordinance. When the city council proposed a revision, more than 75 emails came in from concerned citizens about why including LGBT members in the ordinance would be harmful to the city. This speaks volumes about the negativity people still experience in “the friendliest small town in America.”
Regardless of how people feel against sexual orientation or gay marriage, to say that LGBT members should be discriminated against when trying to be functioning members of the city is hateful and counterproductive.
These are people that want to give back by living here and working here. To turn them away and stifle their opportunities not only hurts them, but hurts the community as well.
Murray earned the title of “the friendliest small town in America” and uses it to attract tourism and students. We value the idea that people will say “hello” to us on the street or chat with us even though we are strangers. However, when we push away the LGBT community by refusing to protect them, we are saying we are only friendly to certain groups of people.
When The News covered the last city council meeting regarding the possible revisions, city councilman Robert Billington said, “I don’t have a problem with homosexuals, but I don’t support it. I have to look at this from a long-term perspective.”
Barring people from job opportunities, housing and public facilities is an act of bigotry. These are the most basic of civil rights. To prevent LGBT people from these opportunities perpetuates the idea that the city does have a problem with them.
The community at Murray State has made an attempt to separate itself from these homophobic sentiments. President Bob Davies wrote a letter to Mayor Bill Wells to express his support of the revision.
In the letter, Davies said, “Murray State prides itself on being an inclusive community that supports and encourages freedoms of democracy being shared equally and wholly by all individuals regardless of the race, color, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or age. Futhermore, Murray State, in living up to our ideals of being a ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ encourages a community in which all members feel safe to express new ideas and thoughts without fear of retribution and intimidation.”
If the revision is not made to the Human Rights Ordinance, the best thing we can do as a Murray State community is be as inclusive, supportive and understanding as we have been.
Just because the city is struggling to understand basic human rights does not mean we have to share the same ideology. The Human Rights Ordinance has not been revised for 44 years. It should be changed to better fit the needs of all people in the city, regardless of their sexuality.