Decatur, Ill., city councilman Mike Carrigan calls gay rights a no-win situation that has divided churches, the business community, and public opinion. He watched the split firsthand Monday night, as nearly 60 people paraded before the Decatur city council to testify for and against a proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the council was nearly united, voting 6-1 to approve the measure. In the end, Carrigan said, he was swayed by his full-time job as a policeman as well as by statistics that show that 17% of hate crimes in Decatur target gays and lesbians. "I can't go back to work tomorrow and forget that," Carrigan said.
The vote puts Decatur on a growing list of Illinois cities that have given sexual orientation the same legal protection as race, gender, age, and religious differences. Council member Betsy Stockard, who is running for mayor in March, cast the lone dissenting vote. She argued that everyone is already protected by existing laws.