Discrimination Discussion

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 | 7:52 p.m. CDT; updated 3:15 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

It’s a crime in Columbia to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or familial status. Familial status, as defined in the city ordinance, refers to whether one has children or is pregnant.

On Thursday, two members of the city’s Human Rights Commission and City Attorney Fred Boeckmann will discuss the ordinance, which gives Columbia residents protections not found at the state or federal level.

The presentation, “Unlawful Discrimination,” begins at 6 p.m. in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library.

Columbia’s nondiscrimination ordinance applies to situations involving employers, housing and public accommodations. It is also illegal in Columbia to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, color, ancestry, age, religion, disability, gender and marital status.

Columbia residents who feel they have been discriminated against have the right to file a complaint.

“The important piece is educating people,” said Nanette Ward, who serves on the commission. Employers and renters need to realize there is an ordinance that needs to be followed, she said.

Ward and Alicia Cornish of the Human Rights Commission will discuss the city ordinance, the complaint filing process and provide general information regarding discrimination rights.

Boeckmann will answer questions regarding legal issues and explain what is prohibited by the ordinance.

Ward said there has been a history of complaints being filed in Columbia under the ordinance.

But Boeckmann said that although the Human Rights Commission has cases filed occasionally, “I think it is a problem in every place in the country from one extent to another.”

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