In October 2014, The Springfield City Council added an amendment to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to protect the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals in the areas of jobs, housing and public accommodations. On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the voters of Springfield, Mo. decided they did not support the action of The City Council, and voted to repeal the SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) amendment to the ordinance.
Max Holtman, a third-year medical student and a Springfield native, is disappointed in his hometown and the decision it has made.
“It made me sad for the people in Springfield who have had their community tell them that it is perfectly acceptable to refuse to serve them because they are different,” Holtman said. “What could be worse than living in a place where you are told that it is wrong to be yourself?”
Of the Springfield voters, 51.4 percent voted in support of the repeal, which translates to 15,347 citizens. The April 7 election was the largest voter turnout for Springfield since April 2001, with 24 percent of registered voters showing up to the polls. Though the election brought in the highest voting rate in more than 10 years, the low percentage of voter turnout highlights the desperate need for citizens to practice their right to vote.
“It’s my hope that people will see how close the vote was and it will encourage them to continue to fight for the best interests of everyone in our community, not just the interests of those who have a pulpit to stand behind,” Holtman said.
In a report from December 2014, the Center for American Progress stated that “roughly 30 states currently lack explicit protections from discrimination against LGBT people and their families when they attempt to find and keep jobs, secure homes, gain quality education, or access the goods and services necessary to live.”
Though Springfield is only Missouri’s third largest city, the population size hasn’t stopped it from making national headlines. News sources such as TIME and USA Today, and popular online media outlets such as Buzzfeed and Perez Hilton, have all reported on the SOGI repeal in Springfield.
The SOGI repeal in Springfield follows closely on the heels of the backlash received by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence after he signed a bill granting freedoms for religious beliefs, protecting those who say their beliefs forbid them from serving same-sex couples.
Due to the severity of the backlash received by the state, an amendment to the bill was quickly approved by the Indiana Legislature, and signed by Gov. Pence, which allows for some protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the “Yes on Question One” campaign’s website, the repeal was necessary in order “to ensure women and children are safe in public restrooms and locker rooms and to protect small business owners who desire to lead their businesses according to their conscience.” The website goes on to state the safety concerns for women are at risk of being exposed to sexual predators. “A sexual predator who falsely claims to be transgender will be given access to public women’s locker rooms, changing rooms and bathrooms. This includes stores, businesses, parks, all public facilities, churches and private schools.”
Despite his disappoint in his hometown, Holtman is hopeful.
“[I hope] those who are gay and trans living in Springfield, as well as anywhere else, are able to keep their heads held high and realize that their worth is in no way related to the views of one-half of one-fourth of the registered voters in the third-largest city of the 18th largest state in this country,” Holtman said. “I hope that they will see that there are more people rooting for them than against them, ignorance just tends to be louder than acceptance.”