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Long Beach Council Tentatively OKs Sex Bias Ban

July 22, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

After getting assurances from the city's public health officer that AIDS does not pose a health risk in the workplace, the Long Beach City Council voted 8 to 1 Tuesday for an ordinance outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ordinance, similar to ones in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, prohibits businesses with five or more employees from disciplining, firing or refusing to hire a person because of sexual orientation. The measure, which also forbids discrimination in compensation and conditions of employment, will come back before the council for final approval next week.

The proposal was tabled last month when some council members said they were reluctant to force businesses to hire people who might have the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus, which has mostly affected male homosexuals.

City Health Officer Rugmini Shah responded with a report saying that "AIDS is not spread through casual contact at the work site." She also admonished city officials that the virus "should not be used as a basis for discrimination."

Despite assurances from Shah, representatives of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Long Beach Associates Political Action Committee joined Christian fundamentalists in opposing the proposal. The business groups argued that the ordinance is unnecessary and would interfere with private businesses. Others called it immoral.

"I publicly denounce this law, like sodomy, to be an abomination," said Donna Voetee, who owns a construction company with her husband. "We will never obey this law."

Voetee and a handful of others stormed out of the meeting Tuesday while Councilman Evan Anderson Braude noted that Long Beach is not the first city to approve an anti-discrimination law.

But about 100 supporters of the ordinance, some of whom have began lobbying three years ago for such a measure, gave the council a standing ovation after the vote.

Councilman Edd Tuttle, who has argued that the ordinance would expose businesses to costly litigation, was the lone dissenter.

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