Commentary : Irvine's Human Rights Ordinance : No: Law would be a setback--no one's rights are secure unless everyone's rights are secure.

Paula Werner is a member of the Irvine City Council and the advisory board of Irvine Citizens United Against Discrimination.

What's happening in Irvine? Apparently a host of accomplishments. Business leaders rank Irvine as No. 1. Irvine's schools are judged best in the county and nation, and UCI boasts prestigious scholars and growing research endowments.

In addition, Irvine's city government is being acclaimed statewide and nationwide for its model programs in child care, recycling, open-space preservation, protection of the ozone layer, and for its public/private partnerships in building a theater, creating a new transportation authority, and establishing international trade opportunities and exchanges. And, of special importance to me, Irvine is applauded for its comprehensive human rights ordinance.

Thousands of us choose to live in Irvine because of these exemplary programs and innovations. We know our city is a special place because we've worked and learned and legislated to make it so. I'm proud of all that Irvine is and of the diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-religious gathering of citizens who call Irvine home.

Because of this pride in what Irvine is and who we are, I am disturbed by the small group of misguided neighbors who have placed an initiative on our November ballot--known as Measure N--that seeks to legalize discrimination and destroy the human rights advances we've worked so hard to secure.

The Human Rights Ordinance is very simple and easy to understand. It outlaws discrimination based on "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, marital status and physical handicap" in the business of housing, employment and commercial transactions. Churches, small businesses and homeowners who rent rooms are granted exemption.

The ordinance is a simple and beautiful statement of the right of all persons to be free from discrimination. In addition, it tells all citizens that they are needed and welcomed and are encouraged to participate in the life of the city. It is supported by both the previous and current City Council members, by ministers, rabbis, congregational leaders, community volunteers, our award-winning teachers of the year, and by civic, cultural, educational and business people who are the builders and keepers of the Irvine dream.

The ordinance bestows no special rights on anyone, only the right to be free from discrimination. Let me state emphatically that this human rights ordinance is not about gay pride festivals, homosexual hiring quotas or imposing a San Francisco gay culture on Irvine. It is not about AIDS or any other sexual or health issue, or about promoting gay role models for our children. The Irvine Human Rights Ordinance does not apply to schools, since they already follow state education codes regarding non-discrimination.

Quite simply, this election is about keeping Irvine's year-old human rights ordinance in place. Proponents of Measure N seek to destroy the ordinance by legalizing discrimination against one specific group of people--gays and lesbians.

A yes vote on Measure N means that gays and lesbians will be singled out for discrimination in jobs and housing. We can't permit this to happen. We can't permit discrimination that denies our neighbors their right to a job or to keep a roof over their heads.

If we allow certain fear-mongers to pick and choose who belongs in Irvine, where does their discrimination stop? What about Latinos, Japanese, blacks, Jews, Koreans or unmarried couples living together? We must not surrender to a campaign of rejection and intolerance. As we have learned in Nazi Germany, South Africa and China, no one's rights are secure unless everyone's rights are secure.

Sponsors of Measure N contend that the City Council has a "homosexual agenda." There is absolutely no truth in that charge. The Irvine City Council has no racial agenda, or homosexual agenda, or religious agenda. In fact, the agenda before the City Council is non-ideological and plain for all to see. We seek to maintain the current high level of services and programs, providing for expected growth while meeting our need for roads, open space, cultural activities and human services. The goal of the City Council is a city of inclusion, not exclusion; a city free from discrimination for all who live or work in Irvine.

As American citizens, we can't permit a few misguided extremists to turn back the clock on human rights. We must continue to reaffirm our heritage of democratic inclusiveness, building an even better community.

I've found that my religious beliefs and commitment to democratic principles influence the actions I take as a public official. Accordingly, I have joined with Irvine Citizens United Against Discrimination to work for the defeat of Measure N. I encourage my friends and neighbors--builders and keepers of the Irvine dream--to join me on Nov. 7 in voting no on Measure N.

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