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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 69.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Sexual orientation and gender identity now included in Madison's affirmative action ordinance
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Any vendors that contract with the city of Madison must now agree they will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Common Council unanimously approved an amendment (PDF) Sept. 3 to the Madison General Ordinances to require the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the city's Affirmative Action Ordinance.

The ordinance already protects groups based on race, religion, color, age, marital status, disability, sex and national origin.

The ordinance requires that every vendor the city contracts with -- except the state of Wisconsin and federal government -- not discriminate against any affected group in the work it performs for the city. The Affirmative Action Ordinance also requires some contractors to submit an Affirmative Action Plan (PDF), which outlines steps the contractor will take to ensure individuals belonging to protected classes will not be treated differently in promotion, demotion, recruitment, layoff, termination, pay and training.

City Attorney Michael May says the amendment will not affect existing contracts with vendors.

According to Ald. Mike Verveer, who co-sponsored the amendment, the idea for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Affirmative Action Ordinance came from an index (PDF) produced by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group. It rated in 2012 the benefits and protections provided to LGBT persons in municipalities across the country. Madison received a score of 95 points out of 100.

"We scored highly in many categories, including having an Equal Benefits Ordinance, which I also was the sponsor of, that actually requires all the city's contractors to offer benefits to domestic partners if they offer them for married couples," Verveer says.

However, the city was penalized for not including sexual orientation and gender identity in its Affirmative Action Ordinance.

May notes gender identity and sexual orientation are already included in the city's Equal Opportunities Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Common Council added sexual orientation to this ordinance in 1975 and gender identity in 2000.

Verveer hopes contractors will not require an amendment to provide a welcoming atmosphere for people of various gender identities.

"It would be my ... expectation that all of the city's contractors are currently not discriminating -- gender identity being a tougher issue because the concept is foreign to a lot of people and it’s not state law yet in Wisconsin," he says.

That Madison will soon include sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination agreements with contractors will put the city ahead of the state of Wisconsin, which according to the American Civil Liberties Union, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation only.

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