Similar to the popular “Drug Free Zone” sign campaign at local schools, Southampton Town developed the “Bias Free Zone” campaign in 2008 to promote civility and respect, and to erase racism in the community. As a result, pursuant to Town Board Resolution #2008-205, the Town erected signs at Town-owned facilities deeming the sites “bias free”.
After a lawsuit was filed by a number of individuals claiming, among other things, that their freedom of speech was violated with regards to the groups’ protest of same-sex marriage, the Town rescinded Resolution #2008-205 and agreed to remove the “Bias Free Zone” signs installed in 2008. The Town Board then adopted Resolution #2013-983, which authorized the installation of new signs to encourage civility at Town-owned facilities and to reinforce the Town’s commitment to ensuring that all citizens that the Town interacts with will be treated in a bias free manner.
“The intent of the original signs was never to impede upon anyone’s first amendment rights, but rather to promote civility, and so we have agreed to remove the bias free zone signs,” Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said. “However, we are replacing the old signs to assure the residents and visitors of our continued commitment to treat all people with dignity, respect and in an unbiased manor when interacting with Town officials.”
“The Town Board did a good thing by allowing the signs to be refurbished and reworded. These signs are not meant to limit freedom of speech. They are a reminder to people in all walks of life that they will be treated fairly by the Town, without bias and discrimination,” Anti Bias Task Force chairman Gerald Martin said.
New signs will go up soon. Language for the signs is being reviewed internally prior to placement throughout the Town.
The Anti Bias Task Force is a Southampton Town committee whose mission is to promote and encourage fair treatment, dignity, and respect for all people, especially within the Town of Southampton. In striving to fulfill this mission, it actively works to prevent and combat prejudice, racism, and discrimination, and to diffuse their destructive effects.