After a marathon day, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending after midnight, Idaho Falls, Idaho, Mayor Jared Fuhriman broke a 3–3 tie to pass an ordinance that bans discrimination in the areas of housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
City Council members began working on the ordinance at an 8:30 a.m. work session Thursday, Sept. 13, and the city council meeting began at 7:30 p.m. The mayor cast the deciding vote after midnight.
The ordinance is similar to the one that passed in Pocatello, Idaho, following much controversy earlier this year. Like many of Utah’s “Common Ground” ordinances pushed by Equality Utah, it is meant to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by preventing discriminatory acts based on sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to employment and housing opportunities.
A sticking point for this ordinance was a public accommodations provision, which was the topic of fliers spread throughout the town earlier in the week. Council President Ida Hardcastle said she has received 190 emails both for and against the proposal in the past five days
Although Hardcastle said many people support non-discrimination standards when it comes to housing and employment, there are a lot of people who don’t want any public accommodation requirements included in the proposal due to some “misinformation out there” and concerns that it could impact facilities like restrooms.
Councilwoman Karen Cornwell made a motion to include the public accommodations language. But her motion failed on a 2–4 vote with Cornwell and Councilman Thomas Hally voting in favor of the amendment.
Testimony by more than 45 people lasted nearly three hours.
“This is a significant ordinance, one of the most significant ordinances to come before us in this community,” Fuhriman testified, according to the Post-Register. “(It has been) important that we take our time and do it right. We want to make sure this is something we, today, can be proud of as we move forward.”
Blair Taylor, who serves on the Idaho Falls Pride Committee that is organizing the area’s first Pride Festival this weekend, said he loves the fact that people are talking about the issue. He disagrees with discussions surrounding the striking of the public accommodation portion and frustrated by the fact that there are some exceptions to the non-discrimination ordinance, such as not applying to businesses with fewer than five employees.
“That’s not a good thing,” Taylor said, adding that a large portion of the businesses in town would meet that exception.
“Equality should be across the board,” he told the Idaho State Journal. He said the ordinance shouldn’t be different than those laws that protect women and minorities.
Idaho Falls’ Pride parade and festival begins tonight.