GREENFIELD — When Catlin Lester moved to Greenfield, he and his boyfriend were looking for a welcoming place to settle down and be close to family.
That was five years ago; they’ve since married, and they want to raise a family in a community that respects their relationship. This week, Lester asked the city council to consider enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at protecting LGBT rights.
His request comes on the heels of a story in the Daily Reporter about other communities in central Indiana adopting such ordinances; Hancock County leaders told the Daily Reporter crafting such an ordinance was not a priority for them because no residents had asked for one.
This week, Lester, who lives in Greenfield with his husband, Matt Curry, petitioned the city council to consider implementing an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting members of the local LGBT community from being treated differently based on their relationship status.
Lester left council members with a copy of Kokomo’s anti-discrimination ordinance, which was approved by its city council last month.
Kokomo joined Indianapolis, Bloomington, Evansville and several other Indiana cities by enacting a civil rights ordinance that affords LGBT individuals the same rights as other residents.
Today in Greenfield, residents can be legally discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, Lester told the council.
“These individuals can be denied housing, employment, educational opportunities and other public accommodations based on who they are, who they love,” he said.
Lester moved to Hancock County five years ago from Las Vegas to be closer to family and to finish his degree in social work. He and Curry married in 2014 and recently purchased a home in Greenfield. As they build a life together, they want assurance they won’t be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, Lester said.
“If we want to stay here and raise a family here, we need to feel a part of the community,” he said.
Enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity would send a message to the state and nation that Greenfield is a city that welcomes all, Lester said.
City officials have said Greenfield is already a welcoming place. Council members thanked Lester for approaching the council. They did not discuss his request and took no action Wednesday night.
Council president Gary McDaniel told the Daily Reporter after the meeting he plans to study the issue in the next few weeks. He plans to research similar ordinances and discuss the matter with other council members.
It’s important all residents, including LGBT individuals, feel welcome, but an ordinance shouldn’t be enacted before council members study the issue, McDaniel said.
“I don’t want to act hastily,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt them or our city in an irreparable way.”
Mayor Chuck Fewell said when he looks out his window, he doesn’t see discrimination in Greenfield. Ultimately, the council will have to decide how it wants to act, Fewell said.
“We’re a vibrant community, and we’re going to continue to be vibrant,” Fewell said. “We’re all equal in my eyes.”
Council member John Patton said he has no opinion one way or another on the issue; he doesn’t consider discrimination to be a local problem.
Lester, who attended the meeting with his husband and a small group of friends, said he doesn’t expect the council to act immediately, but he hopes his request will spark discussion.
“Even if we all don’t agree, we can have respect for each other,” he said.
The Greenfield City Council meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at city hall. Meetings are open to the public, and residents are invited to petition the council to speak at a meeting about topics of concern.
For more information, contact your city council representative.
Gary McDaniel, District 1: 317-908-6399
Mitch Pendlum, District 2: 317-462-3583
John Patton, District 3: 317-490-6300
Jeff Lowder, District 4: 317-586-7247
Kerry Grass, District 5: 317-467-4970
Dan Riley, at-large: 317-462-0903
Joe Skvarenina, at-large: 317-518-1467
“These individuals can be denied housing, employment, educational opportunities and other public accommodations based on who they are, who they love,”
Catlin Lester, Greenfield resident, on the lack of a local anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community.