BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Bozeman City Commission made their decision Monday night and unanimously passed a nondiscrimination ordinance. The ordinance passed 4-0 just before 9 p.m.
Before commissioners could vote, they listened to more than two hours of public comment from members of the community. Around 55 people took to the podium to speak on the ordinance, which would protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
People have been showing up to meetings for months to speak on the topic, but this was the second round of official public comment. The comments ranged from people who were in full support of the ordinance, to those against, and everywhere in between.
After public comment was over Monday night, commissioners gave their own opinion about the ordinance. Two commissioners, I-Ho Pomeroy and Cyndy Andrus gave their full approval of the NDO as it was written.
"I, like most of you, want to live in a community where all are treated equally," said Andrus.
"Lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgendered people are also part of this community, everybody is welcome here," said Pomeroy.
Before it went to vote, Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor wanted to make more a few changes, because he said it needed to be clearer in some areas.
The first proposed change came to section 24.10.040 D. That is the section that focuses on the definition of employers. Taylor explained the changes he wanted to see made. He made an amendment to exempt religious schools and corporations from hiring practices outlined in the ordinance.
"It excludes fraternal or religious association, religious school, or religious corporation, if the association school or corporation, and then it continues from there," said Taylor.
The second measure commissioners changed clarified public accommodation for religious organizations. One example Taylor gave was if a church were to have a bake sale.
"In the context of that kind of accommodation, you would be exempt from the statue," said Taylor.
On the flip-side for churches and religious organizations, he explains situations where they would have to abide by the ordinance.
"If the public accommodation, its purpose is not primarily religious, you are going to be subject to the activities," said Taylor.
After making those changes, commissioners unanimously gave the green light on the ordinance. Now that it passed the first vote, commissioners will vote one more time at a future meeting before the ordinance can officially become law.