Montgomery, the capital of Alabama and a center of the African-American civil rights struggle, is reeling after the city council last week rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance codifying protections for race, religion, gender, marital status, and LGBTQ+ identity.
City leaders are concerned the council's failure will encourage more companies to avoid doing business in Montgomery and instead choose seemingly more progressive places like Birmingham, the state's largest city and a place that enacted pro-LGBTQ+ protections in 2017. The state of Alabama has no specific anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents and, while the Supreme Court banned anti-LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination last year, bias is still legal in areas like housing, banking, and public accomodations.
Councilwoman Marche Johnson told the Montgomery Advertiser that "we are stunting are own growth." Johnson said at least five major corporations have rejected placing workers or offices in Montgomery just since May.
The business climate will likely only worsen following the council's decision, where the proposed ordinance failed on a 4-5 vote. Council president Charles Jinright voted against it, claiming it wasn't needed and that the city faced "more pressing issues."
The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce supported the ordinance and said it bring business, employment, and tourism to the city. Officials also believe the ordinance's failure discourages students from choosing Montgomery for their higher education; the city of 200,000 has seven colleges and universities.
“The term ‘nondiscrimination ordinance’ is truly an ‘inclusivity proclamation’ by city leaders that makes an important statement not only to individuals, but to the companies, organizations, workforce, and visitors we work to recruit,” a statement from the Chamber stated.
Other Southern cities and states — including, memorably, North Carolina —suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in losses after they rejected pro-LGBTQ+ ordinances or passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.