Missouri city repeals ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination

Voters in Missouri's third largest city of Springfield voted Tuesday to repeal an ordinance that provided protection against discrimination in housing and hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Unofficial final results showed that repeal of the ordinance passed with 51.4 percent of the vote.

Officials with PROMO, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Missouri, called the vote disappointing.

"We are still here for each other, and we will still work together to continue to make Springfield a welcoming place for ALL people," Promo Executive Director A.J. Bockelman said in a statement. "Tomorrow, just as today, we continue working to achieve equality."

A message seeking comment from supporters of the repeal effort, the "Yes on Question 1" committee, was not immediately returned.

The Springfield City Council passed the law in October, but opponents quickly began a petition drive to repeal it, forcing the public vote. Springfield has about 165,000 residents.

Opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance have said it violates their freedoms by preventing them from operating a business according to their religious beliefs. Others have said that sexual predators would be allowed to use women's restrooms and have questioned whether discrimination against gay and lesbian residents actually occurs.

Passage of religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas recently drew a backlash especially from business leaders, and those states hastily tweaked the laws to address concerns that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Missouri considered a similar measure in 2014 when a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill, but it never made it to a vote.