Bozeman commission may consider antidiscrimination ordinance early next year


Deputy Mayor elect: anti-discrimination ordinance could be before city council early next year

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Missoula and Helena have already passed ordinances that extend protections in housing and employment to members of the LGBT community. Now the topic is surfacing in cities like Butte and Bozeman.

We spoke to Deputy Mayor-Elect Carson Taylor on Wednesday afternoon. Taylor explained he is open to Bozeman being next in line to adopt an ordinance that is already in other cities across Montana.

"What I get from the people who are active with this is look, this is our only choice, and if enough cities adopt ordinances, then eventually the federal government and  state government will get the idea," said Taylor.

We looked at the ordinances already in place in Helena and Missoula. They are similar in the fact that they both protect the lesbian, gay and transgendered community from discrimination in housing, employment and service at businesses. The differences can be found in what happens when you violate the ordinance.

The Missoula ordinance allows for a misdemeanor charge if a defendant has four violations or more in a 12-month period. The Helena repercussions are not criminal, but those claiming a violation can take their matter to court and seek civil remedies.

Carson says since there is no ordinance on the table it is hard to tell what penalties, if any, the city might adopt. But he already has an idea of what will not work.

"A remedy that basically says you can go out and get a lawyer and spend a lot of money to attempt to prove a claim in certain circumstances is not very functional," said Taylor.

We called city and county attorneys with Helena and Missoula, in order to figure out what impact their laws have had. From what we understand so far there have been no examples of the ordinances being violated.

We asked deputy director of the Montana ACLU to weigh in.

"Right now if you are evicted from your apartment or you are fired from your job because you are gay or trans-gendered there is no recourse," said Ninia Baehr.

Baehr tells us its not the penalties of any one antidiscrimination ordinance that is important, it is the message these laws send when they are passed.

"You can't discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and this needs to include everyone in Bozeman, not just some parts of the community. Fairness is for everybody," said Baehr.

So far there is no time line for an ordinance, but when we spoke to Taylor he tells us it would not surprise the commission to see something drafted as early as next year.

We looked into what it would take to get an antidiscrimination ordinance on the books in Bozeman.

The first step for any ordinance is for someone to bring the issue up during public comment at a city commission meeting. Once that happens the mayor, or a vote of three commissioner can have it added to the agenda. Then the actual language of the ordinance will be drafted. The proposal would go back before the commission and the public for comment and vote.

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