LAPORTE — All department heads in LaPorte will be ordered into diversity training after a city councilman’s disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ community.
Mayor Tom Dermody said instruction on tolerance will also be offered to every member of the City Council and other elected officials.
“Obviously, we have some work to do and we’ll do that. We’ll learn. We’ll educate ourselves, but we are going to continue to promote happiness and welcoming to everybody in our community,” he said.
City Councilman Roger Galloway has come under heavy criticism by the mayor, his fellow members on the council and other LGBTQ supporters for his comments during the July 6 city council meeting.
Resident Alex Masepohl was asking for more resources to help young people struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity when Galloway, 70, said, “You’re talking about gay people. Stuff like that, right?”
“You know that’s against the Bible. Anybody ever read the Bible?” he said.
Masepohl, 29, responded, “I actually have, yes.”
Galloway apologized the next day in writing and during a meeting with her and other members of the Out in LaPorte organization.
He called his remarks embarrassing during another apology at the City Council meeting last week.
“I realize now as a city councilman I should keep my beliefs and personal feelings to myself while conducting city business. I am sorry,” Galloway said.
Resident Jason Milo, though, called his apology "half-hearted.”
He also said it will take years to repair the damage Galloway’s “ignorant remarks” have done to the city’s reputation.
“This is not who we are,” Milo said.
Dermody said the diversity training will begin next month.
An ethics position also was created to handle formal complaints the city might receive about Galloway’s remarks.
City attorney Nick Otis said whether Galloway violated the city’s ethics policy was still under review.
In general, Otis said comments by an elected official are protected under freedom of speech contained in the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and consistently upheld by the U.S Supreme Court.
“I know there’s many people that may disagree with Mr. Galloway’s statement two weeks ago, but it is protected and the remedy, just as the Supreme Court said, is at the ballot box,” he said.
Galloway is in the first year of his third term on the council.