During a media event, business owners in favor of repealing the city's expanded nondiscrimination ordinance Monday said the law is bad for business in Springfield.
The event, led by small-business owner Dick Hardy, urged those businesses that have already stated opposition to the repeal to instead support the repeal.
"This ordinance is the antithesis of fairness," Hardy said, adding that the bill infringes on religious freedoms and may be unconstitutional.
Hardy owns The Hardy Group, which consults pastors on leading churches and helping them grow.
He gathered other "business men and women of faith" to show support for the "Yes on Question 1" campaign. About 50 people were in attendance.
He said everyone standing with him in the room believes in the First Amendment and a right to express their faith while in the workplace or through their businesses. He said he believes people are born gay, but those who follow the Bible believe acting on that orientation is wrong.
He said children are born with orientations to lie or cheat or behave in other ways that are wrong, and said certain sexual orientations would also fall into that group of bad behaviors.
"We believe sex is between a man and a woman," he said. "Sex before marriage, sex with someone other than your spouse while married, sex with multiple people, sex with people of the same gender, sex with children and sex with animals is wrong."
Hardy was also a part of the city's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Task Force. He said the task force found no "verifiable evidence" of discrimination in Springfield. He said those standing with him Monday have never fired someone or not hired someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"It doesn't happen," he said.
But, he said, the ordinance could put him in a difficult position.
"Here's a real scenario that could happen," he said. "I own a pastoral leadership consulting firm called The Hardy Group, LLC. It's a for-profit company. All of my clients are evangelical pastors and churches around the country. They all hold to a view of human sexuality as I do. One man, one woman for life in marriage.
"If I have a consultant on my team named Robert and one day he decides he's going to be Roberta, I'm in a real dilemma. If I keep Roberta, my clients will view that I have someone representing me that is not living a life consistent with our view of Christianity. I will lose that client. Remember, we can debate whether my view of orthodox Christianity is right or wrong, but I have the right in the First Amendment to view something through my faith lens."
He also invited statements from Emily Church, owner of Everything Kitchens, and Carol Coryell, part-owner of TLC Properties.
Church said she believes the ordinance pits people against each other and that she wishes both sides could be tolerant to each other.
She said she has hired people from the gay and transgender community in the past and will continue to do so, but that she doesn't want to see the ordinance kept.
"I'm standing up for religious rights," she said.
Coryell said the new law was not necessary.
"There's an old saying," she said. "'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Anytime a new protected class is created, it invites frivolous lawsuits."
She says defending lawsuits and getting extra insurance is expensive, and business owners would pass that cost on to customers.
"I want residents to think about what's good for the community, not just for businesses," she said. "I believe a "yes" vote is best for the community."
Jeff Munzinger, who owns a marketing and advertising company in Springfield, is not part of the "Yes on Question 1" group but was present at the event. He represented PFLAG, an organization that unites "parents, families and friends" of those in the LGBT community.
He said most major employers support the diversity and equality efforts exemplified by the "No Repeal" campaign.
"The list of corporations that embrace diversity is huge, and proof that equality is a major corporate initiative in America," he said. "Airlines, consumer goods companies, car manufacturers, even Major League Baseball support the same brand of equality that Springfield deserves."
Crystal Clinkenbeard, spokeswoman for the No Repeal campaign, said nine new businesses added their official list of supporters during or soon after the press conference. She said there are now 150 businesses against the repeal.
Because this is a question about repealing an ordinance, some voters could be confused about "yes" or "no."
The question on the ballot asks if the existing ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the city's nondiscrimination ordinance should be repealed.
That means a "yes" vote repeals the ordinance and a "no" vote keeps the ordinance.