On Thursday, Sept. 28, UMOM was host to a night of open community discussion. Students, UM faculty and Montevallo locals alike attended the Montevallo Community Inclusivity Forum to discuss the possibility of the city enacting a Non-Discrimination Ordinance.
The Non-Discrimination Ordinance had previously been brought before the City Council. However, concerns raised by Montevallo citizens over wording and specificity resulted in the motion being reworked.
The ordinance would amend chapter 16 of the Montevallo Municipal Code, barring the act of discrimination toward the LGBTQ community from occuring with no legal recourse.
The forum sought to discuss how the city should move forward in addressing the issue of gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination. Three specific options were presented: establish laws that ensure justice and fairness, focus on citizen relationships, or organizing and educating the community.
Turnout to the event was higher than anticipated with over 100 individuals in attendance. One such individual, Frank Barrientes, attended the meeting was unsure of where he stood.
“I have to say I was leaning against it,” said Barrientes. “But I think with maybe another couple of meetings and some more understanding I could see exactly what’s trying to be accomplished.”
Other attendees echoed Barrientes’ sentiment, stating there is still much work to be done in the community before a consensus can be reached.
“I expected to have a lot of people be really divided. It went about as I expected, and that’s disappointing,” said community member Lea Ann Webb. “I hope that we will continue to move forward having conversations, not debates.”
A variety of concerns were raised throughout the forum’s discussions. One such concern belonging to local business owners was the possibility of unjustified lawsuits from LGBTQ employees. Other members of the community had questions regarding the specific wording of the amendment. Even more attendees considered the matter a conflict of religious ideologies.
“ I’m disappointed that so much about Christianity being against the LGBTQ community was stressed. My support of the LGBTQ community is informed by my faith,” said Webb.
Although the forum saw its fair share of disagreements and emotional response, the meeting’s very occurrence exemplifies the city’s commitment to providing venues for open dialogue among citizens.
“I feel very affirmed,” said Dr. Holly Cost, Mayor of Montevallo. “We have a community that wants to be heard and feels safe enough to express their feelings.”
Moving forward, the city of Montevallo will work with comments and questionnaires from the forum in order to draft a new version of the ordinance. The potential for additional meetings and forums related to the ordinance has been discussed, but no word on such happenings has been officially released.