Victory in Macon: Commission gives final passage to LGBT civil rights ordinance

The Macon-Bibb County Commission gave final approval to an LGBT civil rights ordinance on Tuesday, voting six to three to change the county charter so that the county cannot prevent someone from being promoted or hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Tuesday’s vote was the final hurdle following an April 18 commission vote in favor of the move.

Multiple media outlets reported it was standing room only as hundreds packed the Macon-Bibb Government Center building for the vote.

Georgia Equality, who played a supporting role in helping to pass the ordinance, celebrated the news on Facebook.

The vote passes 6-3! Congrats to Macon-Bibb on becoming the latest GA municipality to protect LGBT employees!

Nai-post ni Georgia Equality noong Martes, Mayo 2, 2017

But the group credited Macon LGBT activists Bentley Hudgins, Demarcus Beckham and Teri Hatley for spearheading the initiative.

“This is a foundational step in the right direction,” Hudgins wrote on Facebook following the vote. “To the dissenting parties, your concerns of future action are valid. I, along with the overwhelming majority of this community, will not stop. I refuse to stop until our community has arrived at that destination that we call justice, and our arrival to this Justice stretches far beyond my lifetime. I will continue to bend the arc, and I know it can make people uncomfortable. However, the further you bend an arc, the closer it moves towards an unending, unbroken, circle of the perfect union. Until this perfect Union is actualized, we will push for that goal in the spirit of love, coordination, and respect. For as long as inequality and inequity exist, we will persist and resist.”

Beckham also weighed in, telling 41 WGMT, “We have so many people here that are LGBTQ that need those workplace protections to make sure they are able to take care of their families and to make sure they are not at risk for being fired.”

However, there were those who spoke out against the ordinance during public remarks, reports WGXA:

“I believe in the separation of church and hate,” said Andrew Manis, a history professor. “And I’m against religion being used as a weapon for bigotry. Commissioners I urge you to vote for this amendment.”

“As Commissioner Shepherd has researched, there has been no complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification in the history of our city and its hiring practices,” said Brad Marchman, a local pastor. “And we have a statement that speaks against discrimination that is sufficient. This amendment is part of a greater push that has been moving in our nation for many years that seeks to demonize anyone who holds a position different form one of the LGBTQ community.”

Update 1:03 p.m.: Georgia Equality issued a press release with statements from Executive Director Jeff Graham, Hudgins, the ordinance’s author Commissioner Larry Schlesinger and Commissioner Elaine Lucas:

Georgia Equality’s executive director Jeff Graham said “The Macon-Bibb Commission has taken a huge first step toward making sure that their LGBT residents feel accepted and embraced in their community. We know that non-discrimination policies are good for business, so I and the rest of the team at Georgia Equality applaud Macon-Bibb for doing what is right.” Graham went on to say, “Georgia Equality has been proud to work toward tonight’s vote by supporting many local advocates in Macon including Bentley Hudgins, Demarcus Beckham, Terry Hatley and the members of the grassroots group Georgia Women (and those who stand with us). Their drive on this issue has been critically important, and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Macon based advocate, and Senior at Mercer University, Bentley Hudgins said “I, along with the overwhelming majority of this community, will not stop. We refuse to stop until our community has arrived at that destination called Justice.”

The ordinance was authored by Commissioner Larry Schlesinger who had this to say after the vote, “Tonight the Macon-Bibb County Commission made the statement that we are a progressive, embracing community and I think that it is a message that is sent out throughout the state in terms of who we are and what direction we are going in.”

After the vote, Commissioner Elaine Lucas said: “I’m just very excited that we did the right thing. To me it was a no brainer. Discrimination against anybody is discrimination against everybody. It’s just inconceivable to me that we would ever condone discrimination in any form against anybody. So I think tonight we took a giant step forward in saying that we have a zero tolerance for that in Macon-Bibb Government”