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Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance turns ten

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 15:19:22 CDT
By: Charlie Schlenker

The Bloomington Human Rights ordinance is a decade old this month. One of those who campaigned for it is David Bentlin, now of the Prairie Pride Coalition. Bentlin says the city legislation provided important protection against housing and employment discrimination, but that was just the start.

"It also raised an awareness that there are other issues like marriage equality, hate crimes, other sorts of discrimination that take place against the L-G-B-T population. And it led to an opening conversations about those issues as well."

University High School students are putting on the play called "The Laramie Project" this fall, about the savage beating death of a young gay man by the name of Mathew Shepherd, caused by a hateful reaction to Shepherd's sexual orientation. Bentlin says it's a sign of progress that even high school students can now take on that material.

Bentlin says passage of the human rights ordinance also led to a proliferation of organizations targeting specific groups within the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community....

"As we've gained some basic civil rights, we've also shed some light on more specific issues. And as a result these new organizations have come to our community and they are meeting a need."

Among the newer groups, Bentlin says, are organizations for parents and friends of lesbians and gays, and another for transgendered individuals. Bentlin says the 2002 passage of the anti discrimination measure happened after the council had soundly rejected the proposal back in 1996.

"One of the keys was reaching across the different minority communities and trying to demonstrate that our commonalities are greater than our differences and that by supporting each others' efforts we can bring about a positive result."

At the end, Bentlin says the Urban League and other local groups supported the gay and lesbian community in pushing for passage of protections against discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation. Bentlin says conditions have now changed so much in the culture the conversation can turn to gay marriage.

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