Local Thoughts on 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

By Matt Lupoli | mlupoli@kolr10.com

Published 07/02 2014 10:22PM

Updated 07/02 2014 10:40PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As America marks 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, laying the foundation for race, gender and religious equality, some say there is still work left to be done.

"You cannot legislate matters of the heart. It's difficult to legislate matters that are even culturally ingrained. So it's in those kind of areas where we still need a lot of work and change," Mark Dixon said.

Dixon is the president of the Bartley-Decatur Neighborhood Center on Calhoun Street in Springfield. He said the Civil Rights Act has moved us forward, but we still have room to grow.

"I think what we really need to be wary of is the less obvious and more well hidden and disguised forms of discrimination," Dixon.

The City of Springfield has its own anti-discrimination ordinance, which protects race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex and familial status.

"We think we've come a long way but we still have quite a ways to go," Kelly Johnson, the Chair of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, said.

Johnson said the commission educates the community landlords after complaints about discrimination.

"Housing complaints are one of our biggest. Generally the housing complaints deal with race and some with national origin , but they deal predominately with disability," Johnson said.

Johnson said most of the complaints come from people protected by the city's ordinance. She said a task force worked on an extension of the ordinance to include sexual orientation. It was recently sent back to a committee and would have to be approved in order to go before the full council.

"The LGBT community is not included in the Civil Rights Act, obviously, but I think we've made a lot of progress along those lines," she said. "The path is well paved and I think that it's a logical next step."

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