Last October, the City Council of Springfield, Missouri passed an ordinance by a 6-3 vote protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Because Missouri is one of the 28 states with no state-level protections and there are no nationwide protections, the local ordinance was the only enumerated legal protection available to the city’s LGBT residents. Tuesday night, voters rescinded the ordinance in a close vote, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.
Opponents of the ordinance had collected petitions to overturn it. The council had the option of either repealing it themselves or sending it to a vote, so they chose the latter. The “Yes On Question One” campaign — a “yes” vote indicating a vote to repeal the protections — proceeded to promote the idea that the law posed a threat to women and children as a core component of their anti-LGBT advocacy.
CREDIT: Springfield’s Yes On Question One Campaign
“With the addition of gender identity,” the group warned, the ordinance “gives anyone claiming to be transgender the right to choose which public locker room, dressing room, bathroom, or other previously gender specific area they wish to use.” As a result, it somehow “protects the sexual predator and allows them free access next to our women & children.”
The Yes On Question 1 campaign used deceptive examples to advocate for their position. In most of their examples, when cisgender men snuck into women’s facilities for deviant purposes like taking pictures, they were still prosecuted for that violation of privacy even though the incidents took place in jurisdictions with transgender protections. In fact, even other cisgender women, who are also allowed access to women’s rooms, would be prosecuted for such behaviors. Only one example — listed last — dealt with an actual transgender woman using a locker room, a case repeatedly cited by conservatives in which nothing actually happened except that parents got upset she was in there with their daughters. As the Yes On Question 1 website even clarified, “The above example is a case where a transgender person is following the law and nothing is reported that indicates they are intending harm to any individual.”
The pro-repeal campaign also used “religious liberty” to justify discrimination, not unlike the recent legislative debacles in Indiana, Arkansas, and Georgia. What the Yes On Question 1 campaign actually admitted, however, is that it was worried that wedding vendors might actually have to serve same-sex couples. The ordinance actually already contained exemptions for religious organizations, but that wasn’t enough for those who felt their license to discriminate was threatened by the protections.
Nearly 24 percent of registered voters in Greene County participated in Tuesday’s election, one of the highest turnouts in decades.