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‘Family’ definition up before Human Rights Commission


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Columbus Human Rights Commission will consider a rule change Wednesday that broadens the definition of families for fair housing purposes.

The commission will conduct a public hearing on the change at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 123 Washington St. The commission’s monthly meeting begins at 4:30 p.m.

The city’s fair housing law bans discrimination in housing on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the draft amendment, the proposed change would add a sentence to the statute:

“In housing, the definition of ‘family’ includes families regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of its members.”

If you go

What: Columbus Human Rights Commission

When: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: City Council Chambers, Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.

Agenda: Proposed amendment to the commission’s rules and regulations for fair housing; 4:40 p.m. public hearing on those rule changes; election of officers; selection of 2013 William R. Laws Human Rights Award winner.

The change is a requirement for receiving federal grants, said Lorraine Smith, director of the Human Rights Commission.

“This is in response to same federal requirements that the county just recently went through,” Smith said in email. “The commission pretty much already had language in place. We are inserting one change to meet federal guidelines.”

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission has been approved for a $126,000 federal grant to demolish the former Bartholomew County REMC buildings at 801 Second St. The grant is contingent upon the Human Rights Commission approving the wording change, said Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director.

Two of the three buildings on the property were damaged in the 2008 flood, Pope said. Last week, the Redevelopment Commission tabled a decision to award a contract for management on the grant, until the commission decides whether to demolish just the two damaged buildings or also a larger, steel-framed building on the property. Commission members felt the steel building might have salvage value.

Bartholomew County approved a similar change to its fair housing statute in October, for a similar reason. County Commissioners made the change rather than lose a $500,000 grant to Driftwood Utilities to fix deteriorating water lines serving German Township.

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