BILLINGS — Billings city leaders rejected a proposed ordinance Thursday that would have banned discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with the mayor casting the deciding vote on a split council.
The 6-5 decision was reached at about 3 a.m., after a meeting that stretched longer than eight hours, the Billings Gazette reported.
“I needed to ask myself, is this fair to everyone, beneficial to everyone? Will it build goodwill and friendships? I can’t say for sure,” Hanel said of his vote.
Other cities, such as Helena, Bozeman and Butte, have adopted measures that prevent gays, lesbians and transgender people from being discriminated against in the workplace, housing and in public accommodations.
Supporters of the measure say they were stunned by the decision.
“My wife and I own our own home, and we’re employed by companies that are open and embracing” of their marriage, which occurred in another state, said Shauna Goubeaux, who with her wife, Nicole, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit to end Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage. “Our lives aren’t as impacted, but the lives of our friends are impacted by this vote.”
Councilman Shaun Brown said he wasn’t against most of the ordinance but did oppose the section that would have barred discrimination in restrooms and locker rooms.
He said he also opposed plans to allow people who successfully argue discrimination to receive monetary damages.
Councilwoman Angela Cimmino said her constituents lobbied her to vote against the ordinance, and that was who she was representing.
The council members who supported the proposal said it was a question of fairness. Becky Bird said some of her colleagues on the council refused to hear the months of testimony from people who received threats and intimidation.
“There is a gay agenda,” councilman Brent Cromley said. “They want to be treated as real human beings.”
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