Boise, Idaho’s city council unanimously approved an anti-bias ordinance protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and in housing. The bill will go into effect January 2013.
The language is similar to ordinances passed in Salt Lake City in 2009 and there are 16 other Utah municipalities that have passed similar ordinances.
The meeting was the culmination of a series of three council sessions gathering hours of public opinion for and against the proposal. Many testified for making Boise a more welcoming city and protecting its citizens while the ordinance’s opponents said they feared how it would affect religious freedom.
One of the strongest supporters of the bill, city Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan, said the ordinance was a first step in the right direction to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and adults.
“This ordinance can serve to have children in our community to feel valued in a way they may not have before,” said Jordan. “To go away to school and to come home to a place that they love and know that they can thrive here as adults then I think we have done our civic responsibility.”
Councilman TJ Thomson said gay rights are of particular concern to him and many others because of friends and family members who are LGBT.
“Having been almost raised by my brother, who is gay, I was able to witness first hand those types of discrimination that do occur,” said Thomson.
He also stressed that the ordinances do not create a special class or offer special protections that are unique to the LGBT community.
Mayor David Bieter said he supports the bill because it will offer greater protection for citizens and attract more businesses.
“Our system is based on the idea that everyone should have the same opportunity to succeed,” Bieter said. “This ordinance is the right thing to do because it ensures that fundamental principle is alive and well in Boise. It also makes good business sense, because as we look to attract new jobs and businesses, we must demonstrate that Boise offers the same protections as other cities. In short, discrimination is bad for business and counter to our shared ideals.”
The ordinance will not apply to religious organizations, certain private associations such as the Boy Scouts, government agencies with offices within the city and some specific housing situations. The enforcement of the ordinance will be handled with an emphasis on mediation and education. If mediation is unsuccessful, violations will be prosecuted as misdemeanors, though prosecutors would have the option to reduce the charge to an infraction if the defendant takes remedial steps. Misdemeanor convictions are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months of jail time. Infractions would cost $156.50, including court costs.