City Commission opts to continue discussion on proposed nondiscrimination ordinance
City Commissioners said during their July 7 meeting that they’d like to move forward with considering a nondiscrimination ordinance focused on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The Great Falls LGBTQ Center, in working with other advocacy groups, came to the meeting to ask commissioners, during the public comment period, to consider the ordinanace.
The item was not on the agenda, nor has staff made any proposed language and no vote is scheduled.
During about an hour of public comment, a number of people spoke in favor and opposition of such an ordinance.
At the end of the meeting, during the portion of the meeting when commissioners discuss items they’d like to explore or make announcements, they said they’d all like to continue discussing the NDO with legal review by the city attorney’s office and a review of what other Montana cities have already done.
Commissioner Rick Tryon said he saw it as an important issue, but not an urgent one, and wanted time to review the proposed language since it “will be a very contentious issue to say the least.”
Commissioner Mary Moe said she wanted to hear from the city legal office on the ordinance, but doesn’t want to see people in the community lose jobs or housing because of who they love.
Commissioner Tracy Houck said she wanted the city legal office to vet the proposal and knows that local groups have worked on developing language, which they said was similar to that adopted in other Montana communities.
She said she respected everyone who commented, whether in support or opposition, but was uneasy about the religious argument.
“It’s not about religion, it’s about equality in our community, Houck said.
Jasmine Taylor, president of the Great Falls LGBTQ Center, said she has experienced discrimination locally based on her sexual orientation and was asking commissioners to consider the ordinance and “asking for you to believe us.”
Multiple people called in to the meeting by phone to support the proposed ordinance and that it would help those who have experience fear of losing employment or housing, or have lost employment or housing, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They said there are gaps in the laws that leave those groups unprotected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Others said they were opposed to such an ordinance, primarily on religious grounds, saying that such an ordinance would infringe on the constitutional rights of those with strong religious convictions if their businesses had to support lifestyles in conflict with those beliefs. Others said there is existing state and federal law regarding discrimination in housing and employment.
The full draft of the ordinance proposed by the LGBQT Center is below:
INTENT AND PURPOSE:
State and/or federal law prohibits the denial of civil rights or discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, creed, sex, pregnancy, marital status, familial status (solely for housing), and physical or mental disability. In addition to these protections, it is the intent of the city of Great Falls that no person shall be denied his or her civil rights or be discriminated against based upon his or her sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The city commission declares that such discrimination prohibitions are necessary and desirable because existing state and federal laws regarding discrimination do not expressly or clearly address all discriminatory acts reported by the city’s diverse residents. Therefore, the city deems it necessary to adopt local regulations adapted to the needs of its citizens. Nothing in this chapter is intended, however, to conflict with such state and federal laws, or to alter or abridge other rights, protections, or privileges secured by state or federal law, including state and federal constitutional protections of freedom of speech and exercise of religion. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise, the following definitions apply:
DISCRIMINATION: “Discrimination”, “discriminate” or “discriminatory” means any act, policy, or practice that has the effect of unfavorably subjecting any person to different or separate treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, or because of their association with a person or group of people so identified. “Discrimination”, “discriminate” or “discriminatory” also means any act, policy, or practice that has the effect of unfavorably subjecting any person to different or separate treatment on the belief that a person has a particular sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, even if that belief is incorrect.
EMPLOYEE: An individual employed by an employer.
EMPLOYER: An employer of one or more persons or an agent of the employer, but not including a fraternal, charitable, or religious association or corporation unless the association or corporation is organized either for private profit or to provide accommodations or services that are available on a nonmembership basis.
EMPLOYMENT AGENCY: A person undertaking to procure employees or opportunities to work.
GENDER IDENTITY OR EXPRESSION: A gender related identity, expression, or behavior, regardless of the individual’s sex at birth.
HOUSING ACCOMMODATION: A building or portion of a building, whether constructed or to be constructed, that is or will be used as the home, domicile, residence, or sleeping quarters of its occupants.
LABOR ORGANIZATION: An organization or an agent of an organization organized for the purpose, in whole or in part, of collective bargaining, of dealing with employers concerning grievances or terms or conditions of employment, or of other mutual aid and protection of employees.
PERSON: One or more individuals, labor unions, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, mutual companies, joint stock companies, trusts, unincorporated employees’ associations, employers, employment agencies, organizations, or labor organizations.
PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION: A place that caters or offers its services, goods, or facilities to the general public, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable to all persons. It includes, without limitation, a public inn, restaurant, eating house, hotel, roadhouse, place where food or alcoholic beverages or malt liquors are sold for consumption, motel, soda fountain, soft drink parlor, tavern, nightclub, trailer park, resort, campground, barbering, cosmetology, electrology, aesthetics, or manicuring salon or shop, bathroom, rest house, theater, swimming pool, skating rink, golf course, cafe, ice cream parlor, transportation company, hospital, and all other public amusement and business establishments.
Public accommodation does not include an institution, club, or place of accommodation that proves that it is, by its nature, distinctly private. An institution, club, or place of accommodation may not be considered by its nature distinctly private if it has more than one hundred (100) members, provides regular meal service, and regularly receives payment for dues, fees, use of space, facilities, services, meals, or beverages, directly or indirectly, from or on behalf of nonmembers, for the furtherance of trade or business. For the purposes of this definition, any lodge of a recognized national fraternal organization is considered by its nature distinctly private.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED:
A. No employer shall discriminate in the employment, failure to hire, refusal to hire, compensation, work classification, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, including promotion, demotion, or termination of employment.
B. No employer shall fail or refuse to refer for employment, or give negative information to a potential employer of an individual, in such a manner that would deprive or limit an individual’s employment opportunities or that would otherwise adversely affect an individual’s status as an applicant or prospective employee, for a discriminatory reason.
C. No labor organization shall discriminate in limiting membership, conditions of membership, or termination of membership of any person in any labor union or apprenticeship program.
D. No employment agency shall discriminate in the procurement or recruitment of any person for possible employment with an employer. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
DISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS PROHIBITED:
It shall be unlawful for a place of public accommodation to deny, directly or indirectly, any person full and equal access or enjoyment of the goods, services, activities, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations for a discriminatory reason. (Ord. 3224, 1-9-2017)
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED:
It is unlawful for any person, owner, manager, employee, or any entity whose business includes engaging in any residential real estate related transactions to discriminate in the sale, lease or rental of any housing facility, or to otherwise discriminate in the terms, conditions, maintenance, improvement, or repair of any housing facility. The rental of sleeping rooms in a private residence designed as a single dwelling unit in which the owner also resides is excluded from this section provided that the owner rents no more than three (3) sleeping rooms within the residence. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
No person shall coerce, threaten, discharge, expel, blacklist, or otherwise retaliate against another person for opposing any practices prohibited by this chapter, making a complaint, or assisting in an investigation or proceeding regarding an alleged violation of this chapter; nor shall any person require, request, conspire with, assist, or coerce another person to retaliate against a person for making a complaint or assisting in an investigation or proceeding. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
VIOLATION; CIVIL REMEDY; EXHAUSTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS BUREAU REMEDY:
Any illegal discrimination specifically addressed by Montana state law shall be submitted to the Montana department of labor and industry, human rights bureau, pursuant to title 49, chapters 2 and 3, Montana Code Annotated (MCA), for processing by the state of Montana.
Any person claiming a violation of this chapter may seek civil remedies, injunctive relief, attorney fees or other equitable relief by petitioning the Great Falls municipal court. Prior to the filing of any petition in Great Falls municipal court under this chapter, a person must have:
A. Filed or sought to file a timely complaint with the Montana human rights bureau alleging discrimination in employment, public accommodations or housing, or retaliation; and
B. Received a written disposition of the complaint from the Montana human rights bureau, Montana department of labor and industry hearings bureau, Montana human rights commission, or any Montana court indicating that the acts of alleged discrimination or retaliation underlying the complaint do not fall within the scope of the Montana human rights act.
For purposes of this section, the term “timely” shall mean filed with the Montana human rights bureau within the time frames set forth in section 49-2-501, Montana Code Annotated.
Any person claiming a violation of this chapter must file a petition with the Great Falls municipal court within ninety (90) days of receipt of the written disposition referenced in subsection B of this section.
The initiation of or the granting of relief under a grievance procedure shall not preclude or limit any other claims or remedies available under this chapter. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)
If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this chapter is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter. The city commission hereby declares that it would have passed this chapter and each section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, and words thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses, phrases or words have been declared invalid or unconstitutional, and if for any reason this chapter should be declared invalid or unconstitutional, then the remaining ordinance provisions will remain in full force and effect. (Ord. 3162, 12-17-2012)