A bill to ban discrimination against LGBT people (as well as discrimination based on marital status, age or veteran status) passed 5-4 in the town of Kokomo, Indiana, the local WTHR/Channel 13 website reports.
And, according to The New Civil Rights Movement website, that’s despite a prayer group of 100 church leaders who got down on their knees to ask God to not let the bill pass.
The bill was passed amid a packed house, after weeks of bitter debate in the town, in which town council members were reportedly threatened with violence if they didn’t vote a certain way. Council president Robert Hayes, who voted in favor of the bill, said he received an email saying that his dead mother would be “weeping” at his vote.
“Well, you don’t know my mother,” Hayes replied. “She’d say ‘Atta boy–go get ’em and speak your mind.'”
As in many other U.S. cities, opponents to the bill said they were trying to block the right of transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. But local trans teens spoke back to that before the council: “I just want to know why you guys think we’re going to be predators, seeing as how the bathroom is our worst nightmare?”, one of them testified.
The Kokomo bill is one of many local LGBT protection bills that have passed in Indiana since last spring, when the state made nationwide news for a proposed “religious freedom” bill that seemed to legitimize discrimination against LGBTQ people. The bill was averted, but many hoped that the controversy would lead to a statewide LGBT protection bill, which didn’t happen.
“They should have acted,” Hayes said of the state legislature. “We didn’t need to have to do this, had they took on the mantle and did something.”
The new statute is especially poignant because Kokomo is the hometown of Ryan White, the boy with AIDS who became a symbol of compassion and fairness before dying in 1990–the same year that U.S. Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides treatment and services to people with HIV/AIDS.