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Butte residents divided about proposed LGBTQ rights ordinance

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 13 2013 06:22:06 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 13 2013 06:44:57 PM MST
BUTTE, Mont. -

Butte could be the latest Montana city to look at an ordinance protecting the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.

The president of Butte's Parent, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays group (PFLAG) has asked the Council of Commissioners to begin drafting a nondiscrimination ordinance.

In a letter sent to Chief Executive Matt Vincent and Commissioners, John Cummings said an ordinance is needed to protect the civil rights of the LGBT community.

According to Cummings, LGBT tenants can be evicted for no reason, employers can refuse to hire them, and business owners can refuse them service.

Similar ordinances have passed in Missoula and Helena.

NBC Montana talked to people to see how they felt about having nondiscrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians in the Butte area.

"Discrimination is wrong," said Butte resident Pat Milligan.

We polled about 50 people outside a Butte grocery store.

We asked: "Do you think there should be antidiscrimination laws protecting gays and lesbians in Butte?"

"Well, yeah!" said a Butte resident, "because they have every right just like everybody else. What difference does it make what their beliefs are? That's what our country is founded on."

Some said the issue was very important to them.

"We have some in our family," said resident Garland Bridges, "so I think it should be a law for everybody equally."

Missoula and Helena have passed similar ordinances over the past couple of years.

In both cities, the measures faced strong opposition -- and support -- through public campaigns and heated public comment at meetings. But, they both ultimately passed. The measure could face similar opposition in Butte.

We asked again: "Do you believe there should be nondiscrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians in the Butte area?"

"Why would you protect perversion?" said a Butte resident. "No I do not. I believe it's wrong. I believe it's a sin. It's sinful and it's a catchy practice. It's just like a disease that you can catch."

Another resident explained: "I guess I'm too religious for everybody. Religion tells me that's not right. It's not that I'm against them, I just don't think there should be any marriage."

Montana lawmakers have weighed a couple of different bills over the last two sessions that related to these types of antidiscrimination ordinance.

We went back through legislative records to find out what happened. In 2011, Republican representative Kristen Hansen from Havre, sponsored House Bill 516. That bill would have stopped local governments from passing ordinances that protected a class or group people not already listed as a protected group under state law. That passed in the house, was amended in the Senate and passed back to house were it ultimately died in Committee.

Two years later, Edie McClafferty, a democratic representative from Butte introduced House Bill 481. HB481 would have protected gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation under state laws prohibiting discrimination. That bill failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.