First of all, I want to thank you for your decision to abandon your repeal of the Fairness Ordinance that your fellow council members voted to pass in December of 2013. I was impressed with your decision to put aside your personal beliefs for the betterment of all the citizens of our great city. With this ordinance in place, fairness and equality are two things that will attract younger (and older) generations to our city, citizens who may not otherwise have felt safe enough to work and live here.
I was very moved by Mr. Miller’s address to you when he fearlessly announced publicly he is homosexual. I was also very impressed by his intelligence. Not only was he your computer instructor, he also holds two master degrees and speaks five languages other than English. I have worked with Mr. Miller through the years and know him personally, as you do. Over the years, not only has he offered computer classes to professionals like you, he has worked with people and their addiction problems, helping them to live substance-free and to work toward more productive lives. He has tirelessly worked with Spanish-speaking citizens as an “English as a Second Language” instructor, teaching them English so they can become productive, tax-paying residents of the Shreveport/Bossier area. As he so eloquently articulated in his presentation, in the past, he has been a victim of employment discrimination based on his personal identification as a homosexual. It has been a travesty that he and many others have had to live in fear of unjust treatment based on something that clearly has nothing to do with his skills as a social worker, teacher, and/or outstanding citizen of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Ms. Raintree, a transgendered woman, recapped discrimination stories of loss of work and housing. I was incredibly moved when she offered a stone to you and said, “One member of this body opposed the ordinance, claiming the Bible prohibits socializing with homosexuals, more precisely, he said; “The Bible tells us that we shouldn’t.” We’re all back in these chambers today because you agreed to reconsider the decision you made just last month. Before you take that vote, I want to set the record straight about what the Bible says. Leviticus 20:13 states; “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,” … “they shall surely be put to death.” I’ve brought the first stone, Mister Webb, in case that Bible talk isn’t just a smokescreen for personal prejudices, but if it is, I hope you’ll vote for a fair Shreveport.”
I really do not need to rehash much more from those who spoke at the meeting, but it took great courage for those who boldly came before you and shared their sexual orientation and stories. I don’t know if it was your intention to propose the removal of the repeal before hearing these powerful stories, but I think you must have felt the pain they have suffered from real life prejudices and discrimination. I truly feel those who spoke risked their lives with their pleas of justice.
Your initial reaction to the Fairness Ordinance was the same reaction other minority groups dealt with when lawmakers challenged equality based on Bible scripture. These arguments underscore the concept of the separation of church and state. With this ordinance, city government is working on everyone’s behalf (including those of color, women and now the LGBT community) just as it is has for yourself all your life, coming from a place of privilege as a white heterosexual male.
Once again, thank you Mr. Webb, for abandoning the repeal. The Fairness Ordinance can now go down in local history as one more component that will help make our city motto a reality: “Shreveport–The Next Great City of the South.”