Springfield expected to remove law aimed at gay people

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 | 10:08 a.m. CDT; updated 11:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SPRINGFIELD — A 1976 Springfield law aimed at preventing gay people from soliciting same-sex encounters was expected to be removed from that city's ordinances on Tuesday night.

The ordinance, which makes it illegal to solicit sex from someone of the same gender, came under fire in June during the annual PrideFest celebration. City Attorney Dan Wichmer has called the law unconstitutional.

Councilman Doug Burlison told the Springfield News-Leader that the law came to his attention amid the outcry in June, and he has called for its removal.

"I'm looking forward to getting this action completed," he said.

In July, the Gay and Lesbian Center of the Ozarks praised the potential removal of the ordinance from Springfield's books.

"It's definitely discriminatory against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community," center spokesman Michael Siepel said in a statement in July. "One of the GLO Center's purposes is to continue to work towards equal rights for all."

Wichmer said the ordinance has not been enforced in years. Instead, the city follows an ordinance that bars sex in public places and is not exclusive.

Burlison said he has received feedback from people on both sides of the issue and has tried to explain to everyone what removing the ordinance would do.

"This is not a measure approving gay marriage," Burlison said. "We're not giving gay people any additional rights. This is a measure, in my mind, that keeps everyone on a level playing field and keeps social engineering out of local law."

Another ordinance that's expected to get the boot Tuesday is one requiring the city to conduct inspections of beer kegs.

"We don't have the financing to provide personnel to do that," Burlison said.


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