by Jeremy Dean and Liz Wertz, Springfield
Note: This letter was sent April 27 to the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, and Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations.
We write to you today as a call to action to affirm the LGBTQIA+ community that they are welcome and safe to live in Springfield. Continuous displays of harmful rhetoric within our state legislature have shown that city leaders must step up and rebuke this government overreach.
We know that city governments cannot undo what the state legislature has done and that the city is required to abide by state law; however, you can act to ensure that our neighbors know that their community is an inviting place for all people no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. We call on you as elected members of our local government to:
- Make a public statement at the next City Council meeting.
At a time when there has been an overwhelming amount of hostile rhetoric, you can choose to be a positive force. You can look at other municipalities, such as Columbia, Missouri, and see how leaders have stepped up to ensure community members understand where you stand on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Acknowledging Springfield as a place for all people will set a precedent for our community and bring many neighbors to support them as they lack such support from our state government.
2. Ban conversion therapy for minors in Springfield.
Banning the pseudo-scientific practice of conversion therapy for minors is an action you can take to show that our city cares about the health and well-being of children who might be dealing with the struggle of self-acceptance. Conversion therapy has been detrimental to many people and has a meager success rate. According to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, conversion therapy causes increased risks of harm to self-esteem, self-loathing, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality. You can look to other communities and states to see the positive effects of this ban, including at least 70 cities across the United States. We can follow in the footsteps of Jackson County, Missouri, the first county in Missouri to ban conversion therapy. Banning this practice will protect our community’s children.
3. Remove gender bias terms from the City Charter.
Several instances throughout our city charter address individuals or positions with gender-biased terms. For example, section 2.1.2 includes terms for council members, stating that they must be referred to as “Councilman” or “Councilwoman,” depending on the gender of the individual. Another example includes Section 2.15, where the charter describes the use of an investigator and refers to this position as “He” and “His.” By rewriting our city charter to reflect our diverse community, you can welcome everyone who wants to serve our community, regardless of gender identity, and create a space that encourages all to use their voice and feel respected.