Establishing commission sends the right message

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The City Council did the right thing this week when it decided to revive the Human Relations Commission.

Discrimination is alienating and debilitating. Creating a commission to address and combat it sends a message that the city of Colorado Springs won’t tolerate it — whether there are hundreds of victims, or just one.

It’s a bit of a rarity for a city like Colorado Springs to not have a commission. Most cities our size have one and have had it in place for years.

The commissions were created soon after the Civil Rights movement, at time when more Americans became fully aware of the ugly effects of discrimination.

Colorado Springs had a Human Relations Commission in place for years, but it was disbanded in 1995, a victim of the culture wars at the time.

Recently, a group of Colorado Springs residents began calling for its reinstatement.

The group reasoned that those who are denied equal treatment because of race, disability, sexual orientation or religious affiliation have no place to take their grievances if they cannot afford litigation.

And, a commission is a good way to monitor city policy, to ensure that discriminatory practices don’t go unaddressed.

Most of us know the city is a place full of diversity, people who are tolerant, accepting and even inviting of difference.

But let’s face it. The city and state’s national reputation is less than stellar when it comes to inclusion and diversity. It didn’t help  Colorado to draw the negative national attention it did in 1992 when voters passed an amendment to the state constitution banning laws protecting homosexuals from discrimination.

The authors of the amendment, it became widely known, came from Colorado Springs.

Four years later, the amendment was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional but the damage to the state’s reputation had already been done, and repairing it has proved a challenge.

So, when it was proposed that the city’s Human Relations Commission be revived, there was little reason for opposition. Thankfully, the council agreed.

Not only will re-creating the commission cost taxpayers nothing, it sends a message that we believe in inclusion and diversity, that we want to protect it and that we want everyone to know it.