The four panelists (pictured above) sought to address the issues of protecting conscience and government intervention. Photo by Jamie Haas

On Thursday, Jan. 11, conversation regarding the City of Montevallo’s proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance continued at Parnell Memorial Library.

The Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO) has been a topic of conversation among the City Council since its proposal approximately two years ago. One notable  opportunity for public discourse regarding the legislation was the Montevallo Inclusivity Forum in September 2017. The forum was organized in such a way that Montevallo residents were able to pose both questions and concerns relating to the ordinance.

The NDO seeks to amend Chapter 16 of the Montevallo Municipal Code, barring the act of discrimination against the LGBTQ community from occuring with no legal recourse. More specifically, the right to work, secure housing and participation in the free market would be protected. As it stands now, there is no federal or Alabama state law preventing such discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.

The Public Information Forum met with a similar goal to its predecessors: to promote community discussion surrounding the NDO. This particular panel maintained an overarching opposition to the ordinance. The panel, assembled on the library auditorium stage consisted of four guest speakers with similar viewpoints opposing the ordinance and others of its kind.

The assembled panelists came from varying angles of opposition. Matt Sharp, Senior Council for Alliance Defending Freedom, cited the impact of other similar ordinances in other states. Adam McLeod, professor of law at Faulkner University, examined the legal underpinnings of the issue. A. Eric Johnston, an attorney at the Southern Law Institute took a stance against the overarching issue of LGBTQ rights. Finally Pastor Harry Reeder III, of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, took a religious view of the implementation of the ordinance.

An ongoing theme noted by the panelists was the potential effects of the proposed ordinance on local business owners and as stated by McLeod, “people of conscience.”

“The folks who are being prosecuted after these ordinances are not, as we took pains to emphasize, discriminating because of sexual orientation,” said McLeod, “In every case it’s a question of what they can do in conscience. That is, they believe as a matter of conscience they cannot tell a falsehood using business resources about what marriage is.”

Sharp and Johnston both took the stance that, although the ordinance claims to be non-discriminatory, it would actually be discriminating against those whose beliefs don’t align with the ordinance’s policies.

Many attendees of the forum stood in stark opposition to those onstage. The group of event goers, in large part consisting of students and University professors, wore stickers bearing the words “Equality is not a Threat” to silently communicate their disapproval of the panelists’ views.

One such attendee, Greg Reece from the Montevallo Acceptance Project remains hopeful regarding the ordinance’s future. “I’m very optimistic that the ordinance will be enacted,” said Reece. The Acceptance Project first proposed the ordinance to the City Council nearly two years ago. “A lot of worries were expressed tonight in regards to threats to religious freedoms,” says reece, “the ordinance offers no such threats.”

Literature circulated at the event echoed Reece’s statement pertaining to the NDO’s relationship with religious institutions. If the ordinance were to be passed, religious institutions would be free to limit membership, leadership and staffing based on religious standards. Additionally, they would not be required to officiate same-sex marriages.

Talks surrounding the ordinance are expected to continue into the near future. In the meantime, citizens are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings regarding going forward.