Bozeman sued over nondiscrimination ordinance


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A group of Bozeman residents is suing the City of Bozeman over the recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance, saying the city over stepped its legal boundaries. The NDO aims to protect members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. The Bozeman City Commission passed the ordinance on June 2. It protects members of the LGBT community from discrimination in hiring, housing and public accommodation. Before it was passed, hundreds of Bozeman area residents spoke out for and against the ordinance. Bozeman was the fourth Montana City to pass this kind of ordinance, behind Missoula, Helena and Butte. NBC Montana spoke to Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor, one of the defendants in the complaint. He said it comes down to residents continuing to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, but the lawyer in this complaint said it's really just about following the law. Both say if the suit moves forward there will be implications for all the Montana towns with similar laws. The complaint, filed by five Bozeman residents against the City of Bozeman and all five commissioners, claims the city overstepped its authority and power in passing the nondiscrimination ordinance. Taylor said he doesn't think the city's decision was unlawful. "I'd much rather that people in the city decided not to discriminate, rather than to go to the trouble to go to court to get the authority to discriminate," he said. "But that being what it is, I look forward to the court meeting to the court making a decision on the validity of the nondiscrimination ordinance and putting the issue to rest." But the lawsuit states, "The defendants did not, and do not, have a viable legal basis of enacting said ordinance; that the same is preempted, and rendered invalid, under State law." The plaintiff's attorney, Michael San Souci, explained this complaint is specifically about the city violating state law, and not about the subject of the ordinance -- discrimination in the LGBT community. He explained it is a matter of following the state legal protocol. Taylor said it's more than that -- the issue is about protecting people from discrimination. "I just hope the city gets a favorable ruling and then we can move on with the business of Bozeman and being as welcoming of a community as we've always wanted to be," Carson said. We checked into what that means for other cities with similar ordinances. The Missoula City Attorney said if the court decides the City of Bozeman did violate state law, then the case could go to the State Supreme Court to look at the implications statewide. Missoula will closely watch what happens with the complaint against the City of Bozeman.