MISSOULA, Mont. - The city of Missoula may start recognizing same-sex couples. This comes just three years after city leaders passed an equality ordinance that protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
We talked to the resolution's sponsor, City Council member Caitlin Copple, who tells us her aim is to put Missoula on the map as an LGBT-friendly community.
Copple tells us, if passed, the resolution would establish a domestic partnership registry that recognizes same-sex couples. Those who register would receive city identification cards recognizing their relationship. The registry would be public, but limited to names.
Copple says the goal is to increase Missoula's LGBT-friendly rating in a study by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
We wanted to know more about the study and the push behind improving Missoula's LGBT-friendly rating.
Copple explained to us that the study looks at six different factors, including whether a city has nondiscrimination laws and if it recognizes same-sex relationships. She's urging her fellow council members to keep Missoula on the path of high ratings.
Copple tells us if the city starts recognizing same-sex relationships it means Missoula will increase its LGBT-friendly ratings by 12 points. A Human Rights Campaign representative tells us Missoula was given a rating of 86 in 2012.
If Copple's resolution passes, it wouldn't mean same-sex couples gain any more rights, but they would be recognized by the city.
Copple tells us there are incentives to being an LBGT-friendly community.
"The cities that were most friendly toward the LGBT community fared better in the recession," she said. "This particular ranking is something that a lot of business leaders and corporations pay attention to in part because the HRC also does a corporate equality index."
We spoke with conservative advocate Dallas Erickson, a Stevensville resident, who says he feels the city of Missoula is pushing an LGBT agenda that not everyone is on board with.
"It's interesting you don't see a reciprocal effort to make Missoula more friendly to ex-gays and other organizations that may not share the LGBT agenda," said Erickson.
Erickson also voiced concern for the safety of couples who decide to register because of the fact that the names are public.
This fall the Human Rights Campaign Foundation study will assess Billings, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula.
If you want to check out the full 2012 study click here.