January 21, 2014 5:44:14 PM
Starkville aldermen denounced various forms of discrimination against residents and city employees, including discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, with a new policy Tuesday.
The resolution, according to the Human Rights Campaign, one of America's largest civil rights organizations working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, makes Starkville the first Mississippi municipality to pass such a policy.
The city's resolution states, "The City of Starkville declares it the public policy to respect the inherent worth of every person, without regard to a person's race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity and expression, age marital status, sexual orientation, familial status, veteran's status, disability or source of income" and describes such discrimination as an anathema to the city.
"The city of Starkville ... is sending a message to its residents that all people -- regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity -- are worthy of respect and equality. These are fundamental American values, and Mayor Parker Wiseman and the Starkville (Board of Aldermen) are setting an inspiring example for their fellow lawmakers in surrounding cities and towns," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "While we must continue pushing for ordinances that codify these values into law across the state, the impact of this resolution on LGBT people -- particularly youth -- will be powerful."
The item was introduced to the meeting's consent agenda Friday, where it stayed up to the start of the meeting and was passed without discussion.
"This resolution makes it clear that Starkville is a community that works proactively to prevent workplace discrimination before it happens," Wiseman said. "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 'We must learn to live together as brothers.' I hope the equality resolution lives up to the beliefs of Dr. King and sends a message that Starkville is a city that is intolerant of discrimination against anyone in any form."
After the meeting, Karin Quimby, a HRC regional field director, said Starkville's resolution should make other municipalities in the state take notice of the city's progressive stance toward equality.
"The city sent a tremendous message tonight: everybody in Starkville -- its residents and visitors, alike -- should be treated fairly and equally by the city and in the city. It takes the courage of the mayor and leadership at the local level to say, 'You know what, everyone is welcome with respect and dignity,'" she said.
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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