Bozeman releases first draft of nondiscrimination ordinance


BOZEMAN, Mont. - The city of Bozeman released the first draft of a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.

City leaders have set aside the entire council meeting on Monday, April 28 to hold discussion and get feedback on the proposal.

The draft is similar to ordinances passed in Missoula, Butte and Helena. It bars discrimination in housing, employment and public services based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

It would allow people who believe they have suffered discrimination to seek civil penalties in municipal court.

But the draft does contain some key difference from previous ordinances. It specifically exempts religious organizations and private religious schools when it comes to hiring practices and public accommodations. It also does not allow for criminal provisions.

Jamee Greer, with the Montana Human Rights Network, has been fighting for the ordinance, and thinks the draft goes in the right direction. But there are some aspects of it he's not satisfied with, like the religious organizations exemption.

"This is about simple fairness, and amendments like this, I think, have the potential to erode civil rights law, and not just for LGBT people, but even more broadly," he explained.

Marybeth Adams is the founder of the St. Catherine Family Health Care Clinic in Belgrade. Even with the religious exemption in the draft, she said she doesn't think the ordinance is necessary at all.

"I would like to see them table scrap this or at least table it for the long term, until there's something that suggests we have a problem in our community," Adams said.

Attached to the draft is a 12-page memorandum written by Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor, which details other issues and concerns surrounding the ordinance. In the documents, the city said both are a starting point for discussion between the commission, and the community.

To read the draft ordinance click on the link: Proposed Nondiscrimination Ordinance.

Monday will be the first time city commissioners take comment on the draft ordinance. No action is planned Monday night.

Monday's meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Commission Room at City Hall.