The Missoula City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that protects residents from housing and employment discrimination based on "actual or perceived" sexual orientation and gender identity. "Most of us can't remember civil rights in action," said Councilwoman Stacy Rye, an ordinance sponsor. "This is it for us. This is our lifetimes." Council members voted 10-2 early Tuesday in favor of the ordinance, which the Montana Human Rights Network says is the first of its kind in the state. "Hopeful ly our act ions tonight will ripple through Montana from Libby to Billings, from Dillon to Wolf Point, and eventually to the capital in Helena," said Councilman Dave Strohmaier, another sponsor of the ordinance. The vote came after a nearly seven-hour meeting in which opponents argued that the ordinance would make women and children more vulnerable to "peeping toms and cross-dressing pedophiles" in public restrooms. Du s t i n Ha n k i n s o n o f Missoula said some of the opposing arguments were "insane." "We are America. Freedom," Hankinson said. "We cannot claim to be the paragon of freedom and liberty and still maintain that it is absolutely acceptable to oppress people for who they are. It's contradictory." The council heard testimony about two women who were unable to purchase a condominium when it became clear to the owner that that they were a lesbian couple, while a 17-yearold girl said she had been repeatedly haras sed and received two death threats for being a lesbian, even though she is not. She said she wanted to point out that the ordinance recognition of discrimination by "perceived" sexual orientation could apply to heterosexuals as well. Mi s s o u l a p a s t o r Ro n Thiessen said he didn't believe the council should advance such a political agenda. "I do not mock their pain, but social policy is not the place to resolve discord in their lives," he said. The ordinance also applies to public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels. C o u n c i l w o m a n L y n Hellegaard voted against the ordinance, saying she was conc e r n e d i t v i o l a t e d t h e Constitution.
Missoula council bans discrimination against gays
Published: Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
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