The Blue Springs City Council voted unanimously Monday to expand the city's fair housing ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected classes.

Courtney Yount McGinnis, writing on behalf of the city's Human Relations Commission, had requested the change after a group of students from Blue Springs South High School petitioned the commission earlier this year for the change, which now puts the city codes beyond state statutes with regard to non-discrimination in housing.

In her letter, Yount McGinnis quoted the students' final line from their petition: “We believe that all citizens deserve the economic empowerment that is housing. That is why we urge you, City Council, to make the change.”

Two years ago, at the commission's recommendation, the city had updated its fair housing ordinance to include language related to gender, religious affiliation and physical ability.

Gavin Schaefer, Shelby Norman and Ezekial Butler, co-presidents of the Young Democrats at Blue Springs South, thanked the council for its decision to affirm the students' cause.

“I do not have the full capacity to share with you tonight my gratitude,” Schaefer said, noting that state data from the Movement Advancement Project show more than 2,000 Blue Springs residents gained housing protection due to Monday's vote.

Norman said that as a member of the LGBTQ community who plans to continue living in the city, “It means more than you will know.”

“These aren't just words on a paper,” Norman had said two weeks earlier. “These words are going to be people's lives.”

Butler also thanked the council for the open discussion, particularly at the Aug. 5 meeting.

“Progress is always an ever-moving wheel,” he said. “I urge this council to remain open-minded.”

Norman and Butler, as well as Blue Springs alum Brad Sears, an associate dean at the UCLA School of Law, had been among several speakers at the Aug. 5 meeting, as proponents wondered if gender identity would be included as a protection and sought clarification. The question arose from some wording in correspondence between one of the students and Council Member Susan Culpepper.

Culpepper stressed Aug. 5 the final version of the ordinance would be voted on at the next meeting.

“I have never had a problem with changing the verbiage,” she said. “I don't like that it became a push and shove. I like to have a good discussion.”

Sears said such protections can have economic and health benefits.

“When localities pass ordinances like this, it has a positive effect on the community,” he said. “It's an important way to send a message to the community that everybody is protected. Listing the categories is important for clarifying the law for employers and landlords.”