POCATELLO — The Pocatello City Council approved an ordinance protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination last June, but just shy of a year later, the controversial ordinance is once again up for vote.
This time Pocatello residents will determine whether the ordinance should stay in effect or be repealed.
They will vote on Proposition One during the Primary Election on Tuesday. A “Yes” vote will lead to the ordinance’s undoing, while a “No” vote will keep it in place.
Brenda Stanley, co-chair of the Fair Pocatello campaign — www.fairpocatello.com — which supports the nondiscrimination ordinance, is urging people to vote “No” on Proposition One.
She says the law protects members of the LGBT community from the possibility of losing their job or being evicted from their home simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it encourages people to treat others fairly and with respect.
“The whole concept is treat others the way you want to be treated,” she said. “That’s what this does.”
But those who oppose the ordinance say it goes too far. While it may protect the rights of the LGBT community, they say it tramps on others’ rights and personal convictions.
Those behind Vote Yes Pocatello, a citizens’ group that wants to see the ordinance repealed, have shared their views on the website www.VoteYESPocatello.com, and they directed the Idaho State Journal to the site when contacted for comment.
“Like most people, we think that people should be treated equally and with respect. Many of us have family and friends who identify (themselves) as gay and we love and care about them. However, laws like Pocatello's city ordinance have been sweeping the country and the consequences have been disturbing,” according to their website, which adds that such laws have been used to take away rights from others.
They say Pocatello’s nondiscrimination ordinance forces business owners to choose between their personal convictions and their profession, and threatens people with fines and jail time for following their personal beliefs.
Vote Yes Pocatello also feels that the ordinance violates people’s right to make decisions about their private property and jeopardizes their ability to sustain their family’s values. And they say it also “blurs the lines of gender by introducing subjective, ambiguous language, resulting in the abuse of privacy rights of women and children,” according to their website.
But Stanley disagrees with concerns about the ordinance, and she feels they are mostly about fearmongering.
“These are necessary things (that need to be) put in place,” she said, adding that people likely feared new laws would cause them to lose their rights during the Civil Rights Movement, too.
Those behind Fair Pocatello believe the ordinance protects rather than hinders basic freedoms.
“This gives rights to people who deserve them. It doesn’t take away rights from anyone,” Stanley said.
She feels the ordinance is important because it protects people from discrimination and sends a message about the community, which could help with economic development.
“It’s important to show that Pocatello is an accepting community and a welcoming community — one where people want to move their businesses to,” she said.
The Bannock County Primary Election sample ballot on Proposition One reads:
Should the City repeal Ordinance No. 2921, which prohibits discrimination against a person in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations, based upon that person’s sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?
A “Yes” vote would mean you want the City to repeal the ordinance.
A “No” vote would mean you want the City to keep the ordinance in effect.