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'We won't tolerate discrimination': Macon-Bibb County Commission discusses controversial ordinance

It passed a committee 5-3 Tuesday but is expected to go to the full commission for a vote next Tuesday.

MACON, Ga. — A committee of Bibb County commissioners voted to further discuss a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance. 

It passed the Committee of the Whole 5 to 3 after a nearly two hour discussion. Commissioners Mallory Jones, Valerie Wynn, and Joe Allen voted against it. 

The proposed ordinance has quickly gotten controversial and caused reaction on social media.

Today, we took a closer look at what this ordinance would do if passed.

The first thing to know is this will apply to businesses operating in Macon-Bibb County who have a business license or permit.   

The ordinance would ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status. Under the ordinance, businesses could not discriminate by withholding any goods, services or accommodations.

"It's really important for Macon as a city that we won't tolerate discrimination here," said Claire Cox, who helped to draft the ordinance. 

There is some misinformation out about what this ordinance would do, including from Commissioner Mallory Jones.

He posted on Facebook giving an example of public school showers and locker rooms. According to Michael McNeill in the County Attorney's Office, the proposed ordinance would not apply to public or private schools.

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The ordinance would offer a local option to deal with discrimination complaints rather than just federal. 

"To go through the federal process is very time consuming, it's very expensive and basically for many if not most, its a complete turnoff. This is to provide a local mechanism to handle these situations," said Commissioner Larry Schlesinger. 

According to the ordinance, an individual has 60 days from when the alleged discrimination happened to file a complaint with the Clerk of Commission. The complaint could then go to a mediator. If not settled there, the claim is handled by a hearing officer. 

If the ordinance passes, the County Attorney's Office says a business that violates this ordinance could be fined up to $500.

Commissioner Valerie Wynn and Mallory Jones opposed the ordinance, mentioning it would allow transgender persons to use public restrooms. 

"You don't want to have someone to come in there that is not of the same gender or says they believe they are of the same gender so they need to be in there," Wynn said. 

"Whether they are little girls, teenagers, moms, grandmothers, great grandmothers, so this legislation will trample on their privacy rights," Jones said. 

Scott Mitchell, Claire Cox and DeMarcus Beckham have worked to inform the community, educate people about the ordinance, and gather support for it. Mitchell says some commissioners' comments were hurtful to some in the LGBTQ community.

"It breaks my heart though because I know other people and friends of mine on that commission meeting this morning, those words hurt. Those words cut deep," Mitchell said. 

He says the goal of the ordinance is to make Macon inviting to all.

"I want to see Macon be the absolute greatest place to live. Businesses, the film industry want to come to Macon. A place where people can walk down the street, holding hands, loving each other and it doesn't matter," Mitchell said. 

Spokesperson Chris Floore says there will be a public hearing on the topic. No word yet on a time or place.

The ordinance is expected to go before the full commission next Tuesday for a vote.