It was the words of a soft-spoken man that brought the head of the Northern Arizona Pride Association to tears during Tuesday night's Flagstaff City Council meeting.

Kathryn Jim cried as she listened to a self-described former bigot confess how he once whispered hateful slurs on the playground as a child.

He credited his college professor for inspiring him to turn away from his bigoted thoughts, bonding over with LGBT classmates at a Texas university by realizing how he shared similar fears with them and how he would celebrate with them when things went right.

He, along with more than a dozen other speakers, told the Council they supported the proposed civil rights ordinance that for the first time would protect sexual preference, gender identity and veterans from discrimination in employment and public accommodations.

In all, more than 100 people attended the meeting at City Hall, with most indicating their support for the ordinance.

Only three people spoke out against the proposal, with one saying the city could not afford the cost of implementing such an ordinance.

Under current plans, the city would essentially contract the work out to a mediator, who would handle complaints on an on-call basis.

The main differences between the current proposal and a failed attempt in 2009 to implement a gay civil rights ordinance are the exemptions.

The new proposal exempts most of the employers in town -- state, county and federal agencies operating inside the city limits, religious-based organizations, "expressive groups" like the Boy Scouts and businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

With churches exempt, only a handful in the crowd made pleas from a religious standpoint.

Tim Swanson, a pastor with the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, came out to support the ordinance.

He said family values and morality do not come from scripture, noting the Bible tells the tale of a 14-year-old Mary being considered the property of her father before becoming engaged to be married to Joseph.

"If you tried that today, that would be illegal," Swanson said. "The church has a strong history of all kinds of mistakes it has made as it has tried to learn how to move forward."

Jim Dorman, the pastor at Christ's Church of Flagstaff, said he saw no reason to pass a new civil rights ordinance offering what he called "protected status" to a select portion of the residents.

"I think the current system is working," Dorman said.

Dorman said he grew up as a boy in the South and witnessed for himself in segregated communities the hatred that stemmed from racism.

"The communities I grew up in are not a reflection of the Flagstaff community," he said.

He added that although he has had some disagreements with members of the LGBT community over the ordinance, he pledged to work hard to make sure members of the gay community were treated with respect and not discriminated against.

The Council is set to discuss the ordinance on Feb. 19 again, and several councilmembers asked Tuesday for minor changes in advance of that meeting.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

Editor's note: This story has been changed from its original version. 

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