After an hour-long public hearing, the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a pair of nondiscrimination ordinances on Tuesday, becoming the first city in Alabama to add legal protections for those who face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While federal law already protects against racial discrimination, Alabama is one of only a handful of states that does not offer legal protections for citizens based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Assistant City Attorney Julie Barnard suggested the council go into executive session before hearing public comments regarding the ordinance, to “clarify a few things” but Council President Johnathan Austin, who has worked on the ordinance since 2013, disagreed, saying “whatever needs to be discussed can be done in public,” and opened the floor to nearly a dozen speakers, most of whom spoke in favor of the ordinances.
Michael Hansen, a recent candidate for the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, talked about teaching himself to “pass as a straight guy” when he was younger to avoid being bullied or in order to land a job.
“The reality is I’m a white man. I’m going to be fine,” Hansen said. “What this ordinance does is protect everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us. It’s about the black trans kid who can’t get a job right out of school or the queer Hispanic kid who can’t get an apartment because the landlord kicked him out. There are real people who are discriminated against in this city every day…This is about all of us.” Read more via Birmingham Times