Muncie council expands civil rights protections for LGBT, veterans

The crowd gave a standing ovation when the council approved the changes.
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Muncie's council approved changes to the city's civil rights law Monday night, expanding protections from discrimination.

Before a nearly full house meeting, the council voted in favor of adding sexual identity, disability and veterans to the list of those protected from discrimination. The move was sparked by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, then amended by state lawmakers.

The new "religious freedom" law led businesses to threaten to boycott Indiana or pull their business out of the state entirely.

"Is this unprecedented? Yes. I can talk about the businessman who called me this morning and said, 'If we don't fix this, we're not going to consider Muncie," said Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler.

So the mayor asked for and got the new additions to the civil rights ordinance.

"(It) lets people know we will not discriminate in Muncie," said Councilwoman Alison Quirk.

Councilwoman Linda Gregory had learned a local church musician had been discriminated over sexual orientation.

"I find that unforgivable and, for that reason, I will be supporting this," Gregory said.

"As a member of the LGBT community, it really is important for the assurance that I am not discriminated against," said Ball State student Dixie Hucke.

Hucke, a Muncie resident, fears economic strides made in places like The Village could be reversed by RFRA backlash.

The council also voted to condemn the state's RFRA, but one Muncie man, who says he has gay relatives whom he loves, supports RFRA.

"I think it gives people of faith an opportunity to do something. Nobody wants to discriminate against anybody, but you have the right to stand up for what you believe," he said.

Normally, it might take weeks for an issue like this to work its way through council, but the mayor and councilors feared the consequences were so significant, they had to act fast.