An ordinance that has been deemed “anti-discriminatory” has been proposed and is awaiting a vote by the De Pere Common Council on November 7 at 7:30 p.m.. Click HERE to read the earliest public reference to the ordinance.
Essentially the proposal adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of protected classes in the city’s anti-discrimination laws related to housing, employment and public accommodations. There are some exceptions in the housing policy—for instance it doesn’t apply to religious organizations that own homes used for their members or rented to their members; and it doesn’t apply to a home owner who owns no more than 3 single-family dwellings that he may rent or live in. It also doesn’t apply to a situation where an owner of a duplex, triplex or quadplex lives in one of the units and rents out the others. The main group the housing ordinance appears to be going after is owners of condominium developments, apartments, townhouses, etc…or we suppose a builder who develops a subdivision and is looking to sell the homes built in that development.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: The public accommodations ordinance is much broader. The list of protected classes includes “gender identity and/or gender expression,” among one of largest groups of “protected classes” we’ve ever seen in these types of policies.
The ordinance defines “gender identity or gender expression” as “a person’s gender-related self-identity, appearance, expression or behavior, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
“Place of public accommodation” means “all establishments within the City of De Pere which offers goods, services, accommodations and entertainment to the public. A place of public accommodation does not include any institution or club which by its nature is distinctly private.”
And here’s the prohibition: “It shall be unlawful for a business establishment or place of public accommodation to deny, directly or indirectly, any person the full enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason.”
There’s no exception in this proposed public accommodations policy for churches or religious organizations. What constitutes “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations” under the public accommodation? If a church advertises in a newspaper or the yellow pages or online and invites people to attend services or a special event, does that make the church subject to the public accommodations law? We suspect it does. What about a Christian school? In addition, this ordinance puts every Christian business owner in De Pere on notice. They are about to lose their right to stop a man from going into the women’s rest room, locker rooms or changing rooms.
So does the City of De Pere have the right to impose this type of ordinance on every privately owned business in the City? On churches and other religious organizations? Do the company owners and church leaders and church members care? Do the citizens care? We believe they do!
Past experience clearly shows us unless the citizens and ministry leaders of De Pere speak up, this will become law in De Pere. (In fact, the language of this proposed ordinance is basically identical to what was proposed in Sun Prairie this past spring. While the ordinance passed, the citizens were successful in getting a religious exception in the public accommodations portion.)
We don’t think this proposal is a good idea at all in any way, but the public accommodation portion is downright alarming. We urge you to contact your alderperson and the mayor and express your opinion–and plan to attend the meeting on Tuesday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the De Pere City Hall Council Chambers, 335 S. Broadway Street.