By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Voters in Missouri’s third largest city of Springfield voted Tuesday to repeal an ordinance that provided protection against discrimination in housing and hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Unofficial final results showed that repeal of the ordinance passed with 51.4 percent of the vote.

Officials with PROMO, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Missouri, called the vote disappointing.

“We are still here for each other, and we will still work together to continue to make Springfield a welcoming place for ALL people,” Promo Executive Director A.J. Bockelman said in a statement. “Tomorrow, just as today, we continue working to achieve equality.”

The Springfield City Council passed the law in October, but opponents quickly began a petition drive to repeal it, forcing the public vote. Springfield has about 165,000 residents.

Opponents of the anti-discrimination ordinance said it was poorly written and that a Human Rights Commission set up by the city had too much power to investigate and sanction.

“The churches were startled and alarmed and began to get involved (in repealing the ordinance). They were the target,” said Calvin Morrow, one of the leaders of a Christian group which supported repeal.

He questioned whether discrimination against gay and lesbian residents actually happened in Springfield and said the fight over the ordinance had left the city divided.

Passage of religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas recently drew a backlash especially from business leaders, and those states hastily tweaked the laws to address concerns that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Missouri considered a similar measure in 2014 when a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill, but it never made it to a vote.

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