Independence updates ordinance with LGBTQ protection

By The Examiner staff

The city of Independence has updated a city ordinance to offer more protections for members of the LGBTQ community.  

The City Council last week added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the city’s assault ordinance, meaning if prosecutors determined that was a factor in an assault case, the sentence could be harsher. Previously that section of the ordinance covered race and gender. Those add-on provisions, however, rarely come into play when bringing charges. 

The council vote was unanimous. 

Mayor Eileen Weir called it a needed modernization of the ordinance that reminds citizens that Independence is a welcoming community committed to protecting everyone. 

Weir in 2019 named a diversity and inclusion task force, which identified a need to update some personnel policies. The city hasn’t fared well in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Quality Index, a measure of how municipalities address LGBTQ equality in services, law enforcement and employment. Weir said people pay attention to those ratings. 

“It really is just an update,” she said of the ordinance change but also stressed that it’s an important move. 

Next week the council is to vote on a ban of “conversion therapy” aimed at minors. That practice, sometimes called reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy, is carried out with the intent of changing person’s gender identity. The ordinance language in front of the council says it’s a discredited practice, that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has found it to lack scientific validity, and that it can harm young people by contributing to depression and the risks of self-harm and suicide. 

Weir said she doesn’t know how the council will vote. She favors the ban. 

“Many cities around us have already done it,” she said.