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Elkhart mayor asks city council to withdraw LGBT ordinance

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) – Elkhart’s mayor wants City Council members to withdraw his proposed ordinance seeking anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and others after it sparked strong local opposition, but he’s not completely giving up on the issue.

In a letter sent Monday to council members, Mayor Dick Moore said he has asked city staff instead to pursue an overhaul of the northern Indiana city’s human relations ordinance. The Democrat said he wants the overhaul to incorporate civil protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

But some members of the Elkhart City Council are expressing skepticism.

“I guess I would ask what time frame can we expect it in,” said Republican Councilman Brian Dickerson. “I don’t believe he had the support for the ordinance.”

Councilman Dave Henke also questions whether Moore’s proposed ordinance could pass the nine-member council, he told The Elkhart Truth, noting the telephone and email campaign mounted by conservative lobbyist Eric Miller of the Indianapolis-based group Advance America.

“We’re getting 10 to 12 calls a day, every day,” said Henke, who was contacted at least twice personally by Miller. “It was just way over the top.”

Miller, who visited Elkhart on July 14 to lobby against the proposed measure and a similar one in Goshen, called Moore’s decision to withdraw his ordinance “a great victory” for his group and its opposition campaign.

“If (Moore) does decide to repackage it and do the same thing in the future … then we will oppose that as well,” Miller said on the phone Monday.

The mayor’s original proposal, which was introduced at the Elkhart City Council meeting on May 4, sought to expand local civil rights protections in housing, education and employment and in public places to all residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The city’s current ordinance offers anti-discrimination protections regardless of one’s race, religion, sex, national origin or disability.

“My goal was to ensure that everyone has a chance to lead a healthy, happy life in Elkhart, free of discrimination,” Moore said in his letter to council members.

It’s unclear when Moore plans to introduce a more comprehensive version of the city’s human relations ordinance.