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City Cuts Ties With Gordon College, Ends Contract to Manage Old Town Hall

The city of Salem ended its contract with Gordon College on Wednesday to run Old Town Hall.

The Old Town Hall in Salem, which has been operated by Gordon College until Wednesday. Credit: Patch file photo
The Old Town Hall in Salem, which has been operated by Gordon College until Wednesday. Credit: Patch file photo

The Salem city government has cut ties with Gordon College after college President D. Michael Lindsay’s wrote to President Barack Obama, pushing for an exemption from federal regulations that bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The college had been managing the Old Town Hall in downtown Salem, which is home to The Salem Museum on the first floor and the second floor is "The Great Hall," an open space available for public use. It is the oldest standing municipal building in the city, according to the Old Town Hall website, and had also been home to Gordon's "Cry Innocent" production.

The announcement was made on Wednesday afternoon in a press release from Mayor Kimberley Driscoll.

Driscoll also said that "current policies at Gordon College that require strict adherence to behavioral standards for students, faculty and staff that are discriminatory towards [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] individuals" prompted the move.

She sent a letter to Lindsay on Wednesday morning notifying him and the college’s Board of Trustees that its management contract of Old Town Hall was terminated because of the college’s non-compliance with the city of Salem’s LGBT-inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance.

"I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus," Driscoll said in her letter to Lindsay. "These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices. While I respect your rights to embed religious values on a private college campus, religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others and cannot be extended into a publicly owned facility or any management contract for a publicly owned facility, like Old Town Hall. Moreover, I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these 'behavioral standards' are to members of the greater Salem LGBT community, some of whom are Gordon alumni, staff and/or students."

Driscoll said that "to ensure a smooth transfer of management," the city will work with the current Old Town Hall staff and producers of "Cry Innocent!" so that "any negative impact on employment and scheduled performances" will be minimized.

"It saddens me to curb our contractual relationship in this manner, despite a long and positive relationship with Gordon College over the years," Driscoll said. "However, not doing so would be a violation of our Non-Discrimination Ordinance and even more troubling, allow a contractual relationship between the city of Salem and an institution that enables, and now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community. As Mayor, I most certainly cannot let that stand."

Ben Occupylife Hartford July 09, 2014 at 10:43 PM
Tolerant of everybody. Unless the liberals disagree with you. Then you will be pushed out of the public square and shamed into silence.
Martine Bamford July 09, 2014 at 10:53 PM
my husband worked there for 25 years and was discarded like an old sock , and forced to be laid off, when he had cancer so they could save a few bucks, his story not being the only one!Good for Salem!!!!!!
Rhonda Aubin-Smith July 10, 2014 at 12:09 AM
Great decision Mayor Driscoll. As a manager in one of the government agencies that will enforce the new law, I am happy to see the actions you took.
Michael July 10, 2014 at 07:10 AM
Excellent leadership Mayor Driscoll and very well written. There is no place in our society for discrimination.

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