Bozeman business owner reignites support for nondiscrimination ordinance
BOZEMAN, Mont. - One Bozeman business owner started an effort to jump start support for a nondiscrimination ordinance. Thursday afternoon at Wild Joe's Coffee in downtown we found a stack of posters and a pair of volunteers looking to pass them out.
Ron Gompertz is the owner of the establishment and says he is an advocate for getting a nondiscrimination ordinance passed in Bozeman. "My hope is that by putting up posters an expression to show solidarity among downtown business owners in Bozeman. This is an ordinance that is well overdue," said Gompertz. We asked him what reignited his passion for the cause. "Every week at the city commission meetings people have been speaking out in opposition to a nondiscrimination ordinance," said Gompertz. NBC Montana was at one of those commission meetings. On February 24, more than two dozen people told commissioners a nondiscrimination ordinance is unneeded, and unwanted. "Can you tell me one instance of where a person has been denied housing or employment based on their sexual identity?" said a Bozeman resident. "The more open homosexuals become, the more people who hold traditional values will be forced to conceal their views," said Belgrade resident Anne Brigham.
But no matter how you feel about it, Gompertz says it is important to make your voice heard. "I think that having feedback from the citizens, and giving feedback to the commissioners is the first step," said Gompertz. The next step he says is getting the community to come together and find some sort of common ground. Missoula, Helena, and most recently Butte have all passed similar ordinances protecting the lesbian, gay and transgendered community from discrimination in housing, employment and service at businesses. We followed up with Bozeman city leaders to find out where the nondiscrimination ordinance stands. The city has yet to request the ordinance be written up.
On Thursday afternoon we asked Mayor Jeff Krauss about a timetable for the ordinance and he says they hope to have further discussions with the public by May. "The commission's agenda is to have a reasonable, reasoned debate about what is needed in the ordinance and then take public comment, make any changes if necessary and pass an ordinance," said Krauss.
Concerned Bozeman citizens created the group "Bozeman Family Action" in response to the non discrimination ordinance push. They've been coming to commission meetings to express their concerns. Group member Michael Ross said he believes it is a constitutional right for people to be able to refuse to associate with certain individuals or groups, explaining "my personal opinion is we already have too many laws; we don't need a law for this." Ross said proponents of the ordinance say it would be good for business and community, but Ross disagreed, explaining, "frankly, what they're doing, using the hammer of government to coerce people into relationships isn't very neighborly."