By a narrow 51.4 to 48.6 percent margin, voters in Springfield, Missouri’s 3rd largest city, repealed a six-month-old city ordinance on Tuesday. The ordinance, which passed the city council by a 6-3 vote in October 2014, extended protections from discrimination to LGBT residents. Opponents of the non-discrimination law were able to gather enough signatures to put a repeal measure on the ballot. On Tuesday, their efforts paid off, as voters elected to repeal the nondiscrimination law.
Turnout was high, as residents on both sides of the issue were motivated to weigh in on the divisive repeal measure. The faith community of Springfield was split. Justin Burnett, a vocal supporter of the repeal effort, who also won a race for a city council seat, argued:
A lot of people of faith thought this ordinance neglected their constitutional and God-given rights. So it is a victory for the faith community.
Calvin Morrow, a leading spokesperson for the “yes on Question 1 campaign” also sounded a distinctly religious tone when he stated:
We’ve just been hoping and praying. Trusting that God would handle it.
Springfield, Missouri is often referred to as the buckle of the Bible Belt, and it serves as the international headquarters for the fundamentalist Assemblies of God Church. However, not all local religious leaders supported the repeal of the non-discrimination ordinance.
Reverend Phil Snyder of Brentwood Christian Church, which bills itself as “Springfield’s Bible Belt Alternative”, was disappointed in the outcome. He had hoped voters would send a message that Springfield is a city that is welcoming to all people. Tuesday’s election represents a serious setback for the city trying to project a more inclusive image.
While it would be easy for opponents of LGBT rights to hail Tuesday’s election results as a victory for their reactionary anti-gay agenda, the closeness of the vote doesn’t bode well for them. Pro-equality activists also should take heart in the fact that although they fell short in preserving the non-discrimination ordinance, the vote was close.
To be sure, the repeal of the law is bad news for LGBT residents of Springfield and proponents of LGBT equality. However, when one considers that Greene County, where Springfield is located, voted 61-37 for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012 and that the city is the buckle of the Bible Belt, the tightness of the election suggests that equality will be back sometime soon.
The city of Springfield, Missouri took a step backwards on Tuesday. That is unfortunate. However, the fact that the forces of bigotry essentially played to a draw in the buckle of the Bible Belt suggests that the step backwards may be only temporary. Equality will eventually win the day, not only in America, but in the Bible Belt as well.
Image via Wikimedia
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.