OXFORD – Diversity was the key for Oxford’s board of aldermen on Tuesday.
Starkville in January affirmed support for its LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) residents, and Oxford followed suit.
Oxford’s resolution declares it city policy “to reject discrimination of any kind and to respect the inherent worth of every person without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, sexual orientation, family status, veteran status, disability or source of income.”
Resident Walter Locke expressed reservations about the inclusion of “gender identity or expression (or) sexual orientation” in the resolution. “I value human life and believe strongly in respect for each and every human being on this earth,” he said. One reservation he noted was people might be forced to share bathrooms with people who were born a different gender.
Noting his business requires an annual permit, Locke said, “I can foresee a day when I may be required to sign a document similar to this. … We should not force those with strong religious beliefs to accept the moral beliefs of others.”
Chamber of Commerce CEO Jon Maynard said the diversity statement would help with the area’s economic development. “Our perception worldwide is of the 1960 race riots,” he said. “We have a very difficult time overcoming that.
“When we grow this community, we’re going to be growing with people from all over the world,” Maynard added. “If we’re not openly making a policy that says ‘We accept you …’ we will continue to be labeled with that stereotype. On the business community’s side, we very strongly support this effort.”
Alderman Jay Hughes took a swing at the state’s proposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” after the meeting.
“When signals from some parts of the state seem to be focused on exclusion, I am absolutely honored and proud to be in a community that embraces inclusion of everyone,” he said. “I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”
Alderman John Morgan said later, “Oxford’s an open community, and everyone’s welcome here.”