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Columbia City Council passes LGBTQ+ Safe Haven Ordinance at Monday’s meeting


The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance that makes Columbia a Safe Haven for the LGBTQ community after dozens of people spoke in favor at Monday night's council meeting.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 6-1 with Ward 5 Councilman Don Waterman as the lone member of the council to vote "no."

The ordinance declares Columbia a safe haven for free speech and expression, to express their support for the LGBTQ community.

"It's really unfortunate that we even have to consider this," Ward 1 councilman Nick Knoth said during the meeting.

The Council chambers were packed at the start of the meeting to the point Mayor Barbara Buffaloe had to ask a handful of people to step outside the council chambers, so the meeting wouldn't break the fire code. Once public comments began, the line of people who wanted to speak stretched from the podium to the back of the room.

Several people had to watch the meeting from the lobby of City Hall while others watched from the conference rooms. Public comments began around 7:50 p.m. and did not conclude until after 10:30 p.m.

"We literally heard from every ward in Columbia," Ward 3 Councilman Roy Lovelady said during the meeting.

The majority of the comments were in support of the ordinance, which included testimonies from several transgender students from the University of Missouri who shared experiences of being bullied and felt that the ordinance would make them feel safer while living in Missouri.

“The queer community is already a minority community in the united states so having our voices heard, that recognition, that safety that makes us feel protected is really important. It’s essential," Anthony Plogger, the cofounder of NClusion+, told ABC 17 News before the meeting.

However, there was some pushback from several people who thought the ordinance would take away their fight to express their religious views while others argued that the ordinance was a lack of common sense.

Waterman argued while that the intentions of the ordinance are good it will not stop people members of the LGBTQ+ community from getting bullied.

"For an ordinance, I do not see a need for it," Waterman said during the meeting.

The city says the ordinance still ensures the city is following state law, but makes enforcement of the state law the lowest priority so that law enforcement can focus on other issues. Buffaloe also pointed out during the meeting that the ordinance does not grant any additional rights to one group over another.

The ordinance establishes policies for the enforcement of laws and participation with other jurisdictions that seek the prosecution or imposition of administrative penalties on individuals and organizations providing, seeking, receiving, or assisting another individual seeking or receiving gender-affirming care.

The city also cited increasing violence in schools and hate crimes, a point that was echoed by many in support of the ordinance during the meeting.

"In July 2022 in Camden, Ohio, a young transgender man named Noah Ruiz was beaten by three cisgender men after using a woman's restroom. The owner of the faculty had instructed him to use the woman's room because he was assigned female at birth. Do you think his attackers let up when he explained he had a vagina? No, they called him homophobic slurs as they beat him," a transgender man who got up to address the council, explained during public comments.

Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors, and some adults in June. The new laws were enacted in August, Senate Bill 49. which bans access to gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers and hormones to children, who are younger than 18 years old. The bill also prohibits Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet, from providing payment for gender transition surgery and puberty blockers.

The city wrote in a council memo that the ordinance comes after multiple healthcare institutions across the country, including in Missouri, have scaled back or are considering calling back gender-affirming healthcare services in response to legal challenges brought on by the new laws.

"The City Council affirms that being LGBTQ is not a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency or shortcoming and commits to finding ways to improve social outcomes for LGBTQ Columbians," according to the Ordinance.

University of Missouri's Young Democratic Socialists of America held a meeting on Sunday where they prepared speeches and created posters for Monday night's meeting.

The organization is advocating for the approval of two bills aimed at easing Missouri's regulations concerning restroom protocols and restrictions on drug usage during gender transition.

"I'm hoping that they vote in both the ordinance as it's drafted right now. But there's also two additional amendments that are potentially up," said Paul Harper, Coordinator at the Parents for Parents group.

Members emphasized that the City Council has been cooperative throughout the process, but they are ready for any outcome.

Roll cart ordinance

The City Council also unanimously passed an amended ordinance about the storage of roll carts on days that trash is not collected. The new trash pickup system is expected to begin on March 4.

Council members previously brought up concerns that its ordinance for the new roll carts was not specific enough.

The new ordinance includes, according to the council agenda:

“Section 22-158(b) (11) Except on the scheduled day of collection, it shall be unlawful to place or store refuse and recycling or refuse and recycling roll carts at any location on the premises which is not immediately adjacent to the residential structure.”

The city amended the ordinance on Monday night to include detached structures, such as garages.

The city held an in-person meeting to receive input from residents and gathered feedback from its beheard website.

According to the council agenda, 14 residents online approved of an ordinance requiring roll carts to be stored next to a house, while 13 were not in favor of a new ordinance. At the in-person meeting in December, 26 people attended, four were in favor of a new ordinance, while one was not, the agenda states.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.


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