Less confusion over ordinance

By Bill Schwingel

Confusion regarding the legality of a proposed gay rights ordinance in the City of DeKalb has lessened after an investigation into home rule showed that any municipality can implement such an ordinance.

In the 1982 case, Hutchcraft Van Services vs. the City of Urbana, it was decided that it was unconstitutional for the city to classify sexual preference as a different class.

Since state ordinances do not call for such a classification, home rule cities are not allowed to protect the classification of sexual preference.

The DeKalb Human Relations Commission discussed the case in relation to the gay rights ordinance Tuesday. The commission decided to let a subcommittee address the ordinance on April 18. If the subcommittee decides the ordinance is legal, the proposal will be sent to the DeKalb City Council for approval.

“Dan Way (assistant law clerk to the commission) has done some additional research,” Assistant City Manager Gary Boden said. “Today it appears that … we can probably go ahead with it. The legal concern has been somewhat mitigated.”

Way refused to comment on his investigation.

If the subcommittee decides to pass the ordinance on to the city council, the commission will try to present their argument as to why they feel the ordinance should be passed, Human Relations Commission Chairman Beth Schulman said.

Among the concerns to be addressed is whether the ordinance will discriminate against heterosexuals, Shulman said. “In no case is a human relations ordinance designed to infringe upon a person’s rights,” she said.

To support the ordinance, the commission will present “anonymous cases” of sexual orientation discriminations and emphasize the existence of similar ordinances in “70 cities throughout the nation,” Schulman said. Chicago, Evanston, Urbana and Champagne are cities in Illinois with human relations ordinances, she added.

The city council also is concerned with the expenses involved with the ordinance since state and federal governments don’t protect sexual orientation rights, Schulman said.

However, she added, “It very rarely costs the city much.” If a formal complaint is filed, the city would have to pay for the expenses, but “incidences of formal complaints are low,” she said.