Quincy News

Human Rights Commission forms subcommittee to propose changes to city code

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 6, 2020 10:00 pm Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 10:39 pm

QUINCY — In 1993, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch organization issued a joint 171-page report that chronicles how the United States has toppled long-established discrimination policies and practices since the 1980s.

Those polices include race-based housing standards, race and gender discrimination in the workplace, addressing accessibility in public buildings for those with disabilities, gay and lesbian civil rights, language rights for non-English speakers, and freedom of expression for all people.

Members of the Quincy Human Rights Commission say that while the nation's laws and views on diversity have changed, the city's codebook has not. They say the book at times refers to the commission as the Equal Opportunity Commission, whose sole objective is to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, to hold hearings on fair housing violations, and if necessary, work with the legal's city counsel to prosecute those who violate fair housing policies.

"The code for the Human Rights Commission was adopted in the 1980s," said Joel Logue, commission vice chairman. "Since then, we have progressed by leaps and bounds when it comes to human rights. We have new laws that have been adopted and implemented in the country and in the state."

A three-person subcommittee was formed during Thursday's commission meeting to review the city's codebook and to recommend proposed changes at next month's meeting. Serving on the committee are Commissioners Chris Taylor, Pamela Wallace and Logue.

If approved by the 15-person commission, the proposed changes to the city's ordinances would be referred in writing to the Quincy City Council for review and final approval.

"With the inclusive mindset and group that we have as a commission, we want to hopefully help the city realize that we are running on a code that is 30 years old and that we need to be doing things a little bit differently," Logue said. "We hope that by bringing up the code's obsolescence to the attention of the City Council that they can see that if they truly want the city to grow and expand, to keep people here, then we need to have modern rules and laws that reflect the city of today, not of the 1980s."

Logue added that missing from the codebook is any mention of addressing complaints related to gender identity and sexual orientation.

"We want to make sure we are current with how we are defining people, labeling people, using the right terminology," Logue said.

One portion of the code defines discrimination based on "race, color, creed, national origin, or ancestry as a menace to peace and public welfare."

Also missing in a definition of discrimination based on disability, gender, citizenship and age.

Updating the code also will help the commission better respond to allegations of human rights violations, Logue said.

"We want to make sure that when someone comes to the commission with a complaint or a concern that we are able to respond using rules that were written in 2020, not in 1980," Logue said.

Logue said he hopes the subcommittee will hear from residents about what they think should be modified within the code pertaining to the commission.

"I wholeheartedly believe that the public is becoming more and more engaged," he said. "Of course, there was a part of the community who has always been tuned into the commission, but now we are seeing engagement from parts of the community who have never tuned in before," Logue said.