St. Joseph County looks to South Bend for human rights enforcement

NOW: St. Joseph County looks to South Bend for human rights enforcement

South Bend, Ind.—

St Joseph County is looking to join forces with the city of South Bend to enforce an ordinance that would look after all neighbors.

It’s the latest step in the council’s fight to protect human rights.

“It’s very critical to the human rights ordinance to have this component as part of it,” said Diana Hess, St. Joseph County Councilperson.

The county council is looking to add teeth to its human rights ordinance.

Back in February, the fate of the bill was a hot topic.

Hundreds of folks flooded the council chambers to make a case for the bill’s future after being shelved for four months.

Five months after its passage, advocates for the ordinance say the fight for human rights is not over.

“We encourage all those in February for the vote in February to come out in September for the vote,” said Jason Wilkinson, the executive director of the Michiana LGBTQ Center.

At the next meeting the council will vote to utilize the resources from another municipality in the building.

“It’s critical really to have that local access for enforcement in relief of grievances and complaints,” said Hess.

It’s a philosophy South Bend’s Human Rights Commission has been pitching to the county for years.

“We’re hoping to have a smooth transition and have the people here be able to handle their problems here instead of going down state,” said Lonnie Douglas, the Executive Director of the South Bend Human Rights Commission.

Douglas says if approved by the council, the commission will take on all complaints in the county for free.

After a year, all parties will evaluate if additional funding is necessary.

“What we will do is go back to the council and ask them if they can give us one person and pay for that person,” said Douglas.

That additional staffer would only come on board if the load is too much.

The new position would cost the county about $55,000.

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