Pocatello pursuing protections for gays

City drafting ordinance banning discrimination

POCATELLO – City leaders in Pocatello are joining a handful of other Idaho cities pursuing anti-discrimination safeguards based on a person’s sexual identity.

Pocatello City Councilman Roger Bray said city officials are in the process of drafting an anti-discrimination ordinance that could be ready for public review and debate next spring. The decision to pursue legal protections for the city’s gay, bisexual and transgender community comes just months after the City Council rejected a resolution condemning discrimination.

Bray says an ordinance makes more sense because it carries more clout than a resolution.

“It serves as a standard rather than a suggestion,” Bray told the Idaho State Journal.

City officials have asked their legal counsel to check with the Idaho attorney general’s office to avoid any complications with state law. Idaho law now forbids workplace and housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin, and mental or physical disabilities.

Earlier this year, the Legislature ignored calls to add sexual identity to state law. Republican lawmakers balked at even holding a hearing considering a bill to add discrimination protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

The lack of action at the state level has prompted cities like Pocatello and Boise to take action at the local level. Leaders in Boise are working on a final draft of an anti-discrimination ordinance. Sandpoint already has a similar ordinance on the books.

Despite the Pocatello’s work, some local supporters are urging leaders in the eastern Idaho city to speed up the process, fearing that delays create more opportunities for discrimination.

“We’ve got to keep this in the forefront,” said Muriel Roberts, who is part of the League of Women Voters, Too Great for Hate and the Pocatello Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – all groups that support the ordinance.

Roberts said those organizations have received testimonies from people who have been discriminated against based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Nobody should be in fear of losing their home or their job or being denied services in Pocatello,” she said. “This is too good of town. Pocatello needs to step up to this … so it can be the kind of welcoming community we want it to be.”

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