Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Officials: Bill defeat does not make LGBTQ discrimination legal


April 24, 2019

A local Job Service official told the Havre Daily News she is concerned that a story run in Tuesday’s edition of the Havre Daily News might give people the wrong idea about discrimination.

A Montana Free Press story titled “Five we followed” said that, with the defeat of House Bill 465, which would have included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Montana Human Rights Act, “discrimination against LGBTQ remains legal.”

Havre Job Service Manager Carol Lamey said the failure of the bill to pass does not mean that at all.

“It is covered under our human rights laws,” she said. “It has always been covered.”

She said she is concerned that the Montana Free Press header and subsequent sentence will lead employers and landlords to think they now can discriminate against those groups when they can’t.

She said discrimination will be a topic at the Assistance for Business Clinic scheduled for Havre May 14.

Marieke Beck, bureau chief of the Montana Department of Labor’s Human Rights Bureau said that, while Montana law may not specify lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers as classes protected from discrimination, the state follows federal guidance on the issue and sexual orientation is a protected class under those guidelines.

“We offer the protection and have been taking cases for quite a while,” Beck said.

She said the protection stems from gender stereotyping, which has been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in cases going back to at least the 1980s with Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.

It also was addressed by the Montana Supreme Court in MacDonald v. DEQ in 2009.

Beck said the state courts have directed agencies to follow federal rules and guidelines as long as they don’t conflict with state law.

“We’re doing what the courts have said,” she said.

The Human Rights Bureau web page on sex discrimination and sexual harassment lists the issue under “Gender Stereoptying (sexual orientation, gender identity, care giver status).”

“State and federal sex discrimination laws prohibit discrimination or harassment based on gender stereotyping,” the page says.

Beck said her bureau is the first step for anyone claiming violations of their human rights including on LGBTQ issues.

“It starts here with the (bureau),” she said. “ … We are an exhaustive remedy.”

People have to use the Human Rights Bureau before they can take it to court, she said.

That reduces the chance of frivolous claims going to court.

People file their initial complaint with the bureau, which then starts an investigation, which can include hearings, before making any ruling on the claim.

“(Having us investigate) makes perfect sense,” Beck said. “If the state of Montana is serious about ending discrimination, it has to know what is going on.”

If people do not agree with the ruling of the bureau, they can appeal the ruling to the court.

The court can reverse the ruling of the bureau, which is only an administrative agency, she said.


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