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Human Rights Commission Moves Closer to Reality

February 4, 2013

The Human Rights Commission is one step closer to reality in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville City Council voted to pass the first reading of the ordinance with amendments. The ordinance would include two city staff positions -- a director and an analyst -- at the cost of $180,000 a year.

The staff and commission would investigate any alleged instances of discrimination in Charlottesville.

Among its amendments, city council wants to allow the commission to mediate and enforce the ordinance. As it's written now, there's an option for city council to pass a future resolution authorizing enforcement.

Also, council wants to include language to say discrimination is outlawed based on sexual orientation and gender identification. That wording was not included in the proposal because the state discrimination statute does not yet include a similar line. Councilors said they will handle any ramifications from including that wording if and when problems arrive.

Prior to the council vote, a number of people spoke in support of the commission, while a handful spoke against.

"We can all agree that racism and discrimination is a bad thing. But let's not confuse resentment with racism," commission opponent John Haden said.

"As a human being, it would be helpful to have a place to go that would investigate events that occur within our community," said Wilbert Brassfield, a supporter of the commission.

Monday's vote was just the first of two readings. Charlottesville City Council will vote on a final Human Rights Ordinance to allow the creation of a commission at a meeting next month.

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