DULUTH – Almost a year after the City Council approved a conversion therapy ban, officials are proposing an ordinance that would give LGBT residents a louder voice in local government.
Duluth council members will introduce plans for a Nonbinary, Queer, Trans, Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex and Asexual Commission at their Monday meeting. The proposed group, referred to as the LGBT+ Commission for short, would serve as an advisory entity for city staff and elected leaders.
The seven-member commission would also weigh in on complaints to the city's Office of Human Rights related to sexual orientation and gender expression.
"There's really not a forum for LGBT people to have direct access to the city government," said Council President Gary Anderson, one of the ordinance's sponsors.
Last December, Duluth became the second city in Minnesota to prohibit conversion therapy, which seeks to change someone's sexual identity or gender identity. That inspired local activists to seek more ways to protect and stand up for LGBT individuals, Anderson said.
Duluth has an existing Indigenous Commission, Commission on Disabilities and a newly formed African Heritage Commission. Anderson said he envisions the LGBT+ Commission functioning similarly to those bodies, which "allow marginalized communities to contribute to the city's decisionmaking process" when addressing issues like housing, health care and economic development.
Council Member Janet Kennedy on Thursday said she was concerned that Duluth's Office of Human Rights might not have the capacity or funding to support yet another commission.
"I just don't know that we have the staff," she said, adding: "I still want to have this conversation."
The council could vote on the measure as soon as Dec. 21.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478