BOZEMAN, Mont. - Monday night Bozeman residents get their chance to give feedback on the City's proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.
The first draft was just released to the public last week.
Bozeman is the fourth Montana city to consider extending protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Missoula, Helena and, most recently, Butte all passed nondiscrimination ordinances.
If passed, the ordinance would allow people who believe they have been discriminated against in housing, hiring or public service to sue in municipal court.
Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor tells us city leaders looked at ordinances passed in other cities, but he says their first priority was to create something they felt was a good starting point for discussion in Bozeman.
"Everybody has equal opportunity, and everybody should be treated fairly and equally, and what we are attempting to do is just make that statement," said Taylor.
Missoula's was the first in the state. It included potential criminal penalties. Butte's is the most recent, passing its nondiscrimination ordinance in February of this year. It mirrors Missoula's closely, even allowing for criminal penalties.
Bozeman's proposed ordinance doesn't allow for criminal penalties, something Taylor says he felt was unnecessary.
"I just don't like to invoke criminal penalties for this, I think its better dealt with civilly, because its primarily a civil matter," said Taylor.
Helena was the second Montana city to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2012. It allows for civil action in municipal court.
"Its really a fundamental principal of common law in the United States that is always been the person that does the damage, pays the damage," said Taylor.
An area where Bozeman's proposed law differs from the three previous ordinances is in exemptions. The way the law is written now, it would exempt religious organizations and religious schools from provisions providing for public accommodation and hiring.
"It was clear to me that people that came in front of us were concerned that their religious freedoms were not being protected adequately," said Taylor.
The meeting started at 6 p.m.
NBC Montana is there and will have complete coverage on the News at 10.