Live Blogging City Council Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

by jhwygirl

We’ll be giving this my best girl scout try…..

Good lord – we’ve not even gotten to the purpose of tonight, and Halverson is out there calling the city the Soviet Union.

Mayor Engen is saying that no one is going to applaud tonight – because what it does is ramps up emotions. He points out that there is going to be people on both sides of the aisle of this issue that have never spoken before in public, and he wants to make sure that everyone is able to be heard.

Amen to that, Mr. Mayor!

Mayor now reads the Diversity Day proclamation.

Hearing is now beginning. Presentations from sponsors of the ordinance will speak, along with certain opponents to start.

Councilperson Stacy Rye begins, and says that this is the most packed that she has ever seen it. Dave Strohmaier and her have sponsored this bill – it will extend protection to sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression. Missoula will hopefully join 129 other cities and Washington DC. She goes on to dispell some myths. There is nothing in this ordinance about bathrooms – there are no laws governing who uses what bathroom – and she notes that despite this, there has not been chaos in Missoula bathrooms over the years.

She points out that in any of the 129 other cities, there has not been an outbreak of crime.

Housing would be protected for sexual orientation just as it is protected for race sex and religion. Businesses like Missoula like Walmart and Costco are but two that already have protections such as the ones proposed already in place. Who you are or who you love should have no effect on your employment and should not cause you to loose housing or services.

Dave Strohmaier begins – and notes what a historic steps this is for Missoula. He reviews the framework – there are two main sections – a new chapter being added which sets the legal framework for discrimination and non-discrimination. It contains an intent section, and other sections with deal with multiple aspects.

The City of Missoula will not be prosecuting the first through third offenses – people would have to obtain their own counsel. Only the 4th offense will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. That is the first main chunk. The second part amends existing code that already contains language related to discrimination – and amends the protected classes.

He speaks to the origin – he says that there is a very real history of discrimination existing in Missoula. He says that last fall both he and Stacy Rye began looking at the issue individually, and found that many places were looking at doing the same and they joined forces with the MT Human Rights Network.

Why not do a referendum? Refer it to the voters? I think that we were elected as representatives – that we have a representative government and that we were elected to make hard choices. It is our responsibility to deal with it.

A few misconceptions: This ordinance will infringe upon rights to exercise religion – Dave says that the Montana Constitution does not allow this, as does the U.S. Constitution. We have – to make it clear – have amended language in the intent section to make it clear that this ordinance does to ensure on the free exercise of religion.

Churches are free to hire – and he cites ministers and day care workers – anyone they wish.

No local government has the authority to alter Montana’s Constitution.

Nicky Zupanic, public policy director for the ACLU. Has had a chance to speak with many of the council to address many of the concerns as the ordinance was drafted and redrafted. Is happy to respond to any other questions that come up, especially as they related to new amendments to clarify protections under the 1st Amendment.

She says that the ACLU has worked hard to ensure that people are not discriminated against. There are reasons that we protect against discrimination because certain traits are inherent – they can not be changed. There is a history of discrimination that certain people have been subject to. At the end of the day, the question is whether the LGBT community belongs in that class.

Passing this ordinance allows for people to come forth with complaints. She notes that many similar ordinances have been in place for 10, 15 years. For many that have been told that state laws do not include you – for these people, this ordinance is a big deal. For people that believe in fairness and equality – who believes is fostering and inclusive, welcoming community – for these citizens of Missoula, this is a very big deal.

Jamee Greer, of the Montana Human Rights Network speaks. He notes the strong support of the Missoula community. Following the kick-off of the campaign, the network organized a large group of supporters to support LGBT. He provides 3,200 petitions that he’s gathered. He is speeding through the huge numbers of organizations – Poverello, Jeanette Ranking, Blue Mountain Clinic…..

One of the newer groups that was created was FlushTheFear. He gives thanks to Quality Supply and her support offered as a business with multiple locations throughout Montana. He reads from her letter – calling for Missoula public policy to reflect values that ensure that everyone is treated with respect and humanity.

Jamee shares a personal story – and talks about coming out in the 8th grade. His father would classify himself as a conservative – a Baptist. When he told his dad, he said that his dad told him that he was proud of him, but that he was afraid for him – that Jamee’s life would face discrimination and an uphill battle.

Bob Lucino, a Missoula resident for 32 years. A former city council rep – says that what he is about to say is not easy. He risks friendships following his words. I don’t hate anybody. People that speak in opposition are not hateful – they are reasonable thoughtful citizens…we respect your office and we pray for you all on a regular basis. We respect your authority. I come tonight as a citizen to state my opposition to this ordinance. There is strong opposition for this ordinance. The latest count is that council has received 439 letters and emails in opposition.

What is there to discuss? By sheer coincidence, and proclamation is read, represented by students who were invited to Caras Park and they marched here. What’s really to discuss? This ordinance is artfully crafted and is very clearly sandwiched between civil rights images. What the vast majority of Montana’s think of as self-destructive, deviant and destructive behaviors. This has been cloaked behind race, creed, veterans – who can argue with that?

What would JFK say? LBJ? I don’t recall any of them ever talking about these groups? The ordinance language and the proclamation infers that it is our duty to protect these people. I don’t wish anyone harm – if people choose to have a dysfunctional lifestyle, that’s OK – but when you take it into this forum, and you cloak it in civil rights imagery, I have a problem with that.

Council reps Rye and Strohmaier is asking their colleagues to go where council has dared not go before. Legislating morality. Goes back to when he was finishing up his term 1991/92 – said that constituents came to him asking look into Mulligans and Fantasy for Adults – that people had family members dragged into a certain lifestyle…said that he didn’t want to deal with it, but he did. He said that from the first review committee – he said that people said that it is not the cities job to deal with moral issues. This discussion had a curious way of advancing until it got to a full public hearing – 350 people showed up. Spill over crowd. Council could have set a high moral standard regarding obscenity – precedent had allowed it, yet they voted 8-3 against it.

Now we come 18 years later, and he considers this as great an issue as hard-core porn and obscenity. He said that he doesn’t want to open up a slipper slope of legislating every little issue. Here we are tonight with a great moral issue and this time the council is considering setting another community standard. In the majority opinion, it is against the majority to get involved in this moral issue.

He turns to Strohmaier and Wiener and asks them about a bike path.

In conclusion, he wants council to take up all the other peoples issues in this town – and notes that we don’t need to go ths far.

Tei Nash gets up to speak. Resident of Missoula – 5 children, 2 businesses. This ordinance is purposely constructed to give no protections to rights of conscience. It will force a change in the moral compass of this community. The ACLU and the MHRN do not represent the will of a majority of Missoula citizens.

This ordinance is not simple. It is written purposely vague. Has consequences to business and encroaches upon the safety protections needed by the women and children of this county.

Under the non-government created 3rd sex, gender identity, the male experiencing this will be able to use any bathroom or services and if he is denied and if he perceives that his gender expression is discrimination, businesses are subject to penalties. Businesses are deemed guilty – there is no recourse except for expensive litigation. Given the absence of scientific or tangible proof of innate sense of one’s gender – it is impossible to protect people.

This ordinance is barbaric. It is irresponsible to expect to be told that increased opportunity for crimes to be committed by peeping Tom cross-dressing pedophiles and other sexual predators that use gender identity to gain access won’t be fully prosecuted until after the fact.

Should this ordinance pass, for every council member who votes for this ordinance, your aspirations will be severely impeded in the next election.

Reverend Hymes, of the Alliance Defense Fund – and wanted to address some legal concerns. It is fair to say that the old saying that one mans cup of tea is another’s draft of poison. There is a clash of two world views. As soon as we read this in the preamble – that there will be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – when you give that, you automatically discrimination to those that have a religious view in opposition.

The fact that there is a newly added disclaimer reminds me of many of the promises coming out of Washington. Right now I see that disclaimer, it is simply stating the obvious, but it does not remove the poison that is in the words that follow. SCOTUS says that it will look at the words the law employs. The SCOTUS also says that we can not construe statutory phrases in isolation – that we have to look at the design of the ordnance in the whole.

He is concerned that one of the items that will be brought up is a judicial settlement is that the city of Missoula is going have to pay something – while many of you on this council will disagree with my world view, what I’m really talking about is the potential for many lawsuits – lawsuits of very many different natures. The ordinance infringes upon churches – because the very definition of a church has it dealing with non-members – and as such, we’d be subject to this ordinance.

Courts will look at how this law is applied. Under public accommodations, it says that anyone who sells food is a public accommodation – and that means that they can not discrimination. He notes that he has pastors in this audience that sells food. SHEC does – Youth for Christ sells food – those churches will be forced to hire people in strict disagreement with their religious principles.

Incidentally, 15A uses the word “bathroom.”

A public accommodation has to open up its services and activities. That means that the services that a church has to provide – nurseries, weddings – that means that they can not discriminate. That means that the Pastor of a church will be forced to conduct a homosexual marriage. Nonetheless, despite what Strohmaier says that this is not legal because of the Montana laws – this ordinance is illegal.

Let me describe to you what happens when a case happens under 1st Amendment expression – that will immediately go to Judge Molloy and then to the 9th Circuit. I want to talk to you about money and what it will cost the city of Missoula – and then what will happen when the city looses – and I don’t have to be a prophet to say that – it will cost a lot. Is this something you really want?

I do not want the epitaph of this city council to be the city council that bankrupted the City of Missoula. The first time a gender-identity man walks into a women’s restroom and does something that strikes psychological fear and apprehension in a child, that lawsuit will come against this city and you will know real litigation costs.

I beg you to remember – for the sake of your soul’s – this is a sin and you should not support it.

Public comment begins. Mayor will enforce the 3-minute rule.

Pastor Ron Theisen to stand in opposition. Doesn’t believe there are problems – but sees on minimal evidence and it does not warrant action. Says the ordinance is advancing a political agenda. It’s poorly written. Said he had to contact lawyers to see what certain phrases mean. Why is it so ambiguous?

Caitlin Coplin speaking in support. Says that there is a need – two friends tried to buy a condo and experienced discrimination. Said that they contacted a developer who met with them and when they went to make an offer and the price was increased by $35,000. Said that “immoral and offensive activities” were added to the condo bylaws and there was nothing in law to protect them from discrimination.

Andrea Mercatchio, who is employed with Forward Montana – and she presents 1,700 signatures collected from all over Montana…and she speaks in support of the ordinance.

Frank Chappell a lifelong resident of Montana – says there are too many laws “we don’t need this mess.” You are going to be responsible to enforce this – let the courts deal with this. It’s more headache than you need. Whether you intended for this not to be about bathrooms – that’s not what the lawyers are going to think. People can’t afford this. I admit, I got mad at some of the people on the other side- I don’t hate anybody, but the problem is not by making a special group that gets special rights. The way to make this work is to make it safe for everyone. I met a nice lesbian lady – she’s a sweetheart – we need to build those relationship. If a roomful of griz fans can tolerate a bobcat fan, they’ve already made my point. We don’t need this.

Bree Sutherland, a self-identifed lesbian and transgendered – she says she has experienced discrimination as a lesbian and a transgendered. She has lost jobs, when asked for legal identification. I’ve had my identity discredited in healthcare, and I’ve been denied the most basic of human rights. As an individual heavily involved in activism, I’ve seen first-hand what discrimination and it is wrong to deny people on the basis of gender identity. This ordinance ensures teh most basic of rights for everyone. She asks everyone to come forward in support.

Brittany Freon Real Estate Management Group Is there in support today of the ordinance. She says that REMG already protects gender identity. She says that it is wrong that the law currently allows them to deny people based on sexual identity or orientation. There was a time when everyone in this room could have been denied housing based on their sex or race or creed.

Kathreen Marie Beckley – has lived and worked in Missoula for 10 years. I have short hear, I am feminine – and people get angry at her because she is not feminine enough – she has been followed twice, cursed and and harassed. She has been followed and harassed – and while this ordinance won’t prevent this from happening, it will require these people to check these feelings at the door when in a public place.

Ellie Hill, Director of the Poverello speaks. The provide services to homeless people and they fully support this ordinance. Up to 43% of homeless youth identify as homeless…she cites many statistics. She says that the Pov works with these folks every day and says that they see these people shut out on a daily basis and says that this ordinance works towards preventing discrimination.

Dustin Hankinson says that he is in favor of this ordinance. If a church is a business, that would mean that they shoud pay taxes. As far as he knows, they don’t…so there goes that argument. These people are worried about bathrooms – do you have some sort of radar through the stall? Do we need stall police? How do you know if someone transgendered is in the stall next to you?

Dr. Bruce Spear – a senior pastor of Crosspoint Community Church – this ordinance says that the purpose is to create unity yet it has already demonstrated that it has done the opposite. The national gay rights organizations want to change the moral fiber of this city. He said that he talked to Stacy Rye and said that she was voting for it. If you asked any black people what they think about this and they will tell you it isn’t civil rights. When black people go to bed, the wake up black. When a gay person goes to bed, they can wake up and not be gay. So using the term civil rights is offensive. The truth is, there is only 3 or 4 that are going to vote for this no matter what because this is their philosophy and their values…and yet there are some of you here that need to now that this is character issue and this is a value issue and people should have the right to say not to a Hell’s Angel that comes up to rent a room.

You said that if I provided you evidence that if people were having problems, you’d do something about. Here is problems that are occurring in the state of Maine.

Shirley Vincinterine – a partially retired child protection supervisor. She’s investigated several 100 reports of sexual abuse of children. Most are heterosexual men – and sometimes women. Most are people that have been entrusted to the child. In incidents where the crime is perpetrated by a homosexual, the other situations are almost the same – a person entrusted to the child. In public restroom, abuse is usually centered around a child suffering abuse for having a bathroom accident.

Bernadette Nephe – imagine having a job and having a secret to keep? You’re part of the LBGT community. You worry about getting fired…just because of your sexual orientation. The stress is enormous. It leads to number of mental health issues like stress and depression. Suicide rates are higher-LGBT children have a higher drop out rate. Passage of this ordinance will help protect these people. All we are asking is for the right to live without fear. I urge you to pass this ordinance.

Rick Rosey a member of the gay community. Came out at 16. Those of that are now older….I’ve listed to the words being said and I’ve listened to the religious community. It someone commits a crime in a bathroom they’re a pervert. Period. We are a city of civil laws. There are laws to deal with this.

Katie Dickinson, broker owner of Portico Real Estate. Has lived in the area for 26 years. Is a lesbian. When she first got her real estate license, she experienced discrimination…with a large firm here. Is suspected at the time that it was because of her look. The short of it is, is that they hired me after a while and put me on a 6 month probation, first and last of the organization – and they recommended a make-over. She excelled and was realtor of the year. She eventually started her own business and hires people based on their qualifications. The city has the opportunity to protect everyone. Please vote yes to this most important ordinance.

Irish >>>>>>- she has no hate in her heart. She feels love and feels sorry for those that have been hurt or discriminated against because of their..misbehaviors. I’m sorry about that. I have a divine calling as a mother and my job is to protect my children. That means shutting off the cable. My children are important to me, and I will fight to protect that. I work at a middle school. I see kids acting upon the same sex. This is not OK. I’ve addressed this. We need to raise up our standards. Put the core into families. I am against the anti-discrimination and I choose family as my core. I have no hate…and this is what this is becoming. According to someone that says these pople are supporting the gay agenda, so where are they being discriminating against. She is crying..and says this is not appropriate. If my child were gay, they’d get counseling.

Anita Keenan – executive director of Blue Mountain Clinic. Speaking in support.

Peter Shober- Pastor of University Congregational. Speaking in support. I can not be silent to this issue. It is about recognizing diversity. 17 years ago, his congregation voted to be an open and accepting congregation. We knew in our hears and souls these times demanded it…and we understand this now. Love is more powerful than fear.

Chris Lockridge. Has lived in Missoula for 32 years. Was afraid. Has a hernia and had to have an operation – his partner and he drove to the VA in Helena and when he was checking into a hotel and was asked questions. A year ago, when he found a place for them to live together in, when filling out the applications he was afraid. He encouraged council to pass this means because it is an important one.

Dua Whaley – is opposed to this ordinance because it doesn’t protect business and churches and wanted to see it rewritten.

David Avery, and appellate attorney who has successfully litigated a number of cases before teh MT Supreme Court. This ordinance is not vague…and I support it. He’s scrutinized if for ambiguity and vagueness and he sees none.

Melinda Gopher – practitioner of fair housing for all her life. She has found incidences of discrimination amongst native americans…has served as education and outreach coordinator. On behalf of her husband and 4 children, they support this ordinance. There is always a good reason to discriminate- and that’s why we need laws…

Michele Basher – is here to oppose the ordinance. Business owners. Does not think there have been problems in this town. Missoula is already very tolerant. We are diverse. We do not need an ordinance or a state day to push this fact. Please vote no.

Betsy Mulliga-Dague, director of the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. She is a straight person who believes that her lesbian gay and transgendered friends deserve justice. One of the signs outside said “Don’t Harm Our Familes” and so I say Let’s Protect All Our Families. This is the right thing to do – I thank you for taking this on.

John Halveman..pastor Open Door Baptist Church. Isn’t going to appeal on the authority of the scriptures since many of you many not hold the scriptures in high esteem. I’m going to appeal to your objectivity and reasonableness. There are already laws on this book and if this law is passed it will create more confusion.

Jeannette Zengraf – speaking for Concerned Women for America, which has two chapters in Missoula. Asks for 6 minutes. Says she is from Lolo, but is speaking for Missoula women. You are preparing to pass a draconian ordinance. Data from personal surveys between salaries of homosexual and heterosexual is no different. Homosexuals here in Missoula are accepted by influential persons and Missoula Mayor Engen can back up this fact. She doesn’t have any statistics on transgendered. Doesn’t like that landlords won’t be able to control the overt behavior of homosexuals. Legislation passed in NY allowed 60 miles of waterfront altered completely because homosexuals rented the facilities and families were discrimination.

Steve Night – runs a business in Missoula and support ordinance.

Steve Brezyinski – counted up letters written to city 232 – 19. About the language put in there that it doesn’t take away from constitutionality. When confronted with conflicting statutes, courts will side with the most restrictive. A possible consequence of that, it talks about the 100 member threshold, that could very well include churches.

Tom Lamons – moved here and started a church…He prays for council. He gets his belief system from the bible. You may not believe that, that’s your right. The religious freedom of all americans is protected…how do I check what god has told me to believe at the door. I plead with you to vote no.

Mike Peck. Opposed to this ordinance. Before any laws have been properly addressed. What is a homosexual? What is a heterosexual? (He offers definitions) What is the definition of a Caucasian? Can a white person choose to be black? Can a heterosexual choose or not choose to have sex with someone of the opposite gender? Can a homosexual do the same? Why would you cater a law to a group of people that choose one thing over another? Seems to be the same issue to me? Making laws to tolerate diversity is not the way to do things.

Some woman – says she’s for it….name is Charlette Castle. Homophobia is the irrational fear of same-sex relationships. Rooted in fear. Has spent 30 years as a therapist. Homosexuality is natural. It is inborn – trying to change it is at a person’s peril. There are so many suicides. I’d like to get away from these labels – gay…lesbian. We are all alike in our humanness.

John Webster – issue is bigger than this council. Urges them to table it. Let’s write something the whole community can agree upon and then let’s put it to a vote.

Lake Benjamin Francis, graduate of UM. Has served in various law enforcement capacities with the federal government. He was scared to look for work in Missoula because he feared what might happen because he was transitioning from female to male….and he says that that choice was absolutely necessary. When he tried to get a job, he faced discrimination. The only option he had was to limit his search for employment with businesses that had express policies protecting transgendered.

Patricia Clay – resident of 11 years. Children attend school, husband has a business. Has had friends, colleagues and neighbors that were members of LGBT community…has never had a problem with them…but is opposed to parts of this ordinance. Item 15, section A – the word “bathroom” is in there. 1 in 500 people experience gender identity – that would limit this issue to 215 people…Doesn’t feel this particular issue is a discrimination issue – it is a public safety issue. Also believes the issues of pedophiles would not come from this community – but opening the restrooms would bring these people here.

Gabrial Fershawn – moved to Missoula last fall. Glad for the dialogue. Supports the ordinance. In his senior year of high school, a gay student was followed home and a group of kids put a brick through his window. He knows these problems exists and thanks the council for supporting the ordinance.

Angel Norquist. Here to read tow letters in support. One from Planned Parenthood. Second is from the Western Montana Community Center.

David Herrara. Worked in public health and urges council to support the ordinance. A latino gay man…he doesn’t differentiate the two – he’s been called man thing over the last two days, but none of them have been things like Democrat or rich or poor. We are like everyone else, that said, there are ways that we differ – we can be fired, denied housing and refused accommodations. I have experienced this discrimination. It doesn’t have to be this way. I believe we should be judged on our abilities. This ordinance is about fairness and equality.

Kathy Deschamps. Is in favor of the ordinance. Wants people to quit cherry-picking phrases from the bible.

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  1. Harris might want to consider a little COUVRé.

  2. Jeff

    Great Work JHWygrl! Keep it up…

  3. Edith Hamilton's Brother

    “Churches are free to hire – and he cites ministers and day care workers – anyone they wish.” (gee, he addressed ministers and day care workers, imagine that!! heh heh)

    At any rate, the issue I raised last night appears to have been addressed by Dave. By leaving churches out of “other public places” he’s protected first amendment rights and avoided driving churches from Missoula.

    Of course, problembear’s probably got some stupid non sequiturs about Cheeses to add. Maybe Dave S could be challenged with “what have you got against gay day care providers, Strohmeier?”

    Kudos for providing the information. You gotta be crampin. The Missoulian is twitterin away, too. As the impassionate scribe and observer, what has been the most original public comment you’ve read or heard? Has any of it changed any commissioner’s mind, you think?

    • Nothing’s swayed how I felt about it…

      I’d say that Tei Nash’s daughter Tara speaking was pretty powerful. How she kept it all straight, I don’t know, because I was crying.

      They’re going to be at it for quite a while, still. Hours.

      • Edith Hamilton's Brother

        Yeah, that was incredibly personal to play out in public like that. We can only hope that someday the family will be reconciled.

        In the end, a cathartic experience, and, opposite of what the one opponent said, not divisive but unifying as an experience the city has gone through together.

        • It wasn’t done in a bitter way at all. She is from Missoula, only away for school.

          It probably doesn’t convey by merely transcribing it (I did that word-for-word) – just thought I’d add that.

          • Edith Hamilton's Brother

            Yes, my reference to a cathartic experience was for the city as a whole, not the family, in other words, some pointed to a full room and said, “city divided”. My view would be all in that room went through that experience, and in doing so, it changed them and the city whether they will acknowledge it or not…a “city sharing an experience”.

            Dick Haines vote surprised the Missoulian, how about you? I’d point to his vote as evidence of the veracity of my “shared experience not division” point.

    • Let me continue that – I can not imagine after hearing directly from gay lesbian trangendered queer people – speaking to having experienced fear – physical fear, psychological fear…discrimination in housing and work and accommodations – how people could think that allowing that to occur as part of a civil society, that how that could be ok.

      No one is telling these opponents that they can’t continue to be full of hate.

      If anything – after hearing all of this testimony, it only reinforces the idea in my mind that this ordinance is needed.

      • Edith Hamilton's Brother

        Sounds like Dick Haines heard something in the public comment that swayed his vote. Who says there’s no hearing in a public hearing?

  1. 1 I haven’t seen crowds this size since … « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] the two council members to vote against it. Jhwygirl blogged live from council chambers here and here. I went to the rally and marched to council […]




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