POCATELLO — Pocatello’s non-discrimination ordinance has been a divisive issue in the community, and nothing portrays that more than Tuesday’s vote.
Proposition One — which asked voters to decide whether or not the controversial ordinance meant to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination should be repealed — resulted in a near tie at the polls. The ordinance barely survived with 4,943 people voting to keep the law in place, and 4,863 voting to rescind it.
Although it was a close call, Brenda Stanley, co-chair of the Fair Pocatello campaign, which worked to keep the ordinance in place, is happy with the outcome.
“(I am) grateful for the people who made the effort to come out and make their voices heard,” she said, adding that she’s relieved the ordinance wasn’t repealed.
The law prevents discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And Stanley feels the law is necessary to protect the rights of members of the LGBT community who could otherwise be evicted from their homes or fired from their jobs based on their sexual orientation.
She also believes that having such a law in place portrays Pocatello as a welcoming community.
“This is a victory for all people in this community,” Stanley said, adding that fairness, kindness and common sense have prevailed.
Although the ordinance protects the rights of members of the LGBT community, opposers say it has the potential to take away rights from others.
Those on the Vote Yes Pocatello committee, which worked to repeal the ordinance, have said the law makes business owners choose between their personal convictions and their profession and threatens people with fines and jail time for following their personal beliefs.
In addition, they feel it uses subjective and ambiguous language to blur the lines of gender in a way that could abuse the privacy rights of women and children.
Although Vote Yes Pocatello believes people should be treated fairly and respectfully, members feel the law has the potential to do more harm than good. That’s why Ralph Lillig, chairman of Vote Yes Pocatello, said they did their best to get the law repealed.
He’s personally not planning to pursue the matter any further.
“The people have spoken,” he said, adding that the majority chose to keep the law in place.
Still, Lillig said it will be up to the Vote Yes committee to determine if they want a recount due to the close vote.
Pocatello City Councilman Eva Johnson Nye said she doesn’t feel the ordinance has really changed the way people live their lives or impacted their ability to worship as they see fit in the past year, still she knows the law has been divisive.
Now that people have had a chance to weigh in on the matter, she feels it’s important for citizens to set their differences aside and move on.
“Lets all work together to make Pocatello a better place to live for everyone,” she said.