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Non-discrimination panel illuminates new city ordinance

Jake Essman / The Arbiter

Despite sparse turnout, Monday night’s Non-discrimination Ordinance in Action discussion panel, put on by the Women’s Center, provided insight and information about Boise’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance, passed by a unanimous Boise City Council vote on Dec. 4 of last year, made it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in instances of employment, housing and public accommodation in the city of Boise.Panelists included Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho Monica Hopkins, Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan, and Boise Police Department’s Chief Deputy Pete Ritter and LGBT liaison and Victim-Witness Coordinator Katie Davy. City Council member Lauren McLean was also scheduled to appear but was unable to attend.

The panel was created by the Women’s Center to highlight the importance of the new law.

“We were really interested in this significant move towards a more inclusive Boise community. That’s obviously what we work for at our Center, so we wanted to talk about how that’s happening in this city,” said Bri Cornwall, a gender equity peer educator with the Women’s Center.

Discussion focused on the origination of the ordinance and how it will be enforced. Maryanne Jordan’s involvement with the issue was spurred by reports of members of the LGBT community who were reluctant to report crimes against them for fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity would be made public and they would face discrimination, especially in the workplace.

“It became very clear to us that the role of an elected official at the very bottom core is the health and safety of your citizens and that we had an obligation to address this issue,” Jordan said.

The city council worked with the Chamber of Commerce, the Boise Police Department, members of the faith community and the ACLU of Idaho to produce a law that would take into account all sides of the issue.

Hopkins emphasized the ACLU’s commitment not only for equality for all individuals but also to religious liberty. For this reason the law also includes exemptions for churches, religious organizations, and private clubs such as the Boy Scouts of

Above all else, the panel wished to emphasize that the ordinance was not an endorsement of a particular community or the creation of a special class.

“This really is not a religious issue,” Jordan said. “The fairness and the safety of all members of a community is paramount. This was done as a public safety service to our community and it was being done as a fairness issue.”

Hopkins agreed the ordinance was passed to work toward equity.“We all have a sexual orientation and we all have a gender identity,” said Hopkins. “Really this ordinance is not about only protecting a certain segment of the population, it’s about protecting all of us.”

Deputy Chief Ritter detailed the police department’s role both in creating the ordinance and enforcing it.

“We gave (our) recommendations and got a product back that’s very easy for us to enforce and very easy for the officers to understand when they’re out on the streets,” Ritter said.

Much of the enforcement relies on mediation between parties when a complaint is filed. This stage will occur prior to any criminal proceedings and will attempt to work toward a solution outside of the court system.

If an individual is found guilty of discrimination, the misdemeanor charge carries up to a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.Sophomore radiology major Rachel Mendeville attended for an Intro to Clinicals class and learned about the issue.

“I didn’t know anything about it actually,” Mendeville said. “I didn’t realize that there wasn’t a protection law over anyone classified as gay or lesbian.”

Boise State staff members were also in attendance. Tim Welch, an administrative assistant with the Department for University Advancement,  found out about the event on BroncoWeb.

“I knew the ordinance passed but I wanted to find out about how it got passed. It’s much more complex than I realized,” Welch said. “I’m very happy this passed
in Boise.”

The panel pointed to other cities in Idaho that are also considering similar measures, such as Pocatello. All voiced hope that the trend would continue to grow and eventually help affect similar laws at the state level.

To read more about the non-discrimination ordinance click here