We recently sent a letter to our Bexley Chamber of Commerce members and wanted to share it with the rest of our community.
We are reaching out to you directly in order to update you on a recent issue involving a member of our organization denying services based on sexual orientation.
This incident came to our attention last month via an electronic communication delivered to the Chamber on February 5. The message claimed that one of our members, a Bexley-based videography company, denied services to a same-sex couple seeking videography services for their wedding. The writer asked whether there are “standards” for Bexley Chamber of Commerce members and if this was “ok” with the Chamber. Understandably, the board was terribly upset. In our 29 years in business, we have never encountered a single complaint of discrimination involving a Chamber member.
The Chamber board spent the next several days verifying the claim, examining our policies and consulting with an attorney. Like the vast majority of chamber organizations nationwide, the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce does not presently have a non-discrimination policy that applies to membership. Thus we learned that our immediate recourse in this case was limited.
At our February 11 board meeting, we discussed in detail how the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce could ensure this does not happen again. The Chamber Board believes that discrimination in any form is wrong and should not be tolerated. At this meeting, the board agreed that our membership policy must be revised to reflect this. We began the process of re-writing our policies and guidelines. Our all-volunteer board continues to work diligently to examine how we can best implement a policy that forbids applicants and/or current members from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender expression, age, ancestry, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status. As we revise this policy, we plan to seek input from our membership as well. We hope to have these new policies in place very soon.
Following the meeting, we also responded to the message we had received from the woman who was denied services. We expressed our regret over the situation and explained that our present policy does not currently deny membership based on the individual business preference of applicants. In addition, we added that, for this reason, the views of the business members do not necessarily reflect the views of the Chamber of Commerce itself. Reports that the Chamber “supported” or “sided” with the business are inaccurate.
After receiving a request from The Columbus Dispatch regarding this incident, we released a public statement on March 13 that you can view on our Facebook page. It was posted to our website and Facebook page and shared on the Bexley Buzz Facebook page. The statement makes it clear that the Chamber will not tolerate discrimination and that we plan to be on the forefront of change.
There has been much discussion on social media regarding this incident and the timing of the Chamber’s response. Given that this issue is highly sensitive and unprecedented for the Chamber, it needed to be given due consideration and completely vetted. It was important to take the time to thoroughly explore the situation and examine how we can best move forward as an organization that encourages inclusivity, prioritizes diversity and forbids discrimination. It is our sincere hope that this clarifies the situation for you and, as a Chamber member, you will join us in achieving these goals.
Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
Upcoming Events you will not want to miss:
March 27th: Breakfast with Ben
New City Hall
Catered by Zoe’s Cafe RSVP needed by March 24th
Breakfast Buffet: $12 Members $15 nonmembers
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