Billings, Mont. Mayor Tom Hanel cast the deciding vote on a city ordinance that would have added LGBT non-discrimination protections to the city code — defeating the measure 6-5 in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Hanel, who has been mayor since 2009, said he doesn’t believe the city of about 109,000 residents is ready for the ordinance because he wasn’t sure it would build “good will” or be “fair, beneficial to everyone,” the Billings Gazette reported.
The non-discrimination ordinance would have amended the Billings city code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Many other cities have seen intense debates over non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in recent weeks and months. Just last week, voters in Chattanooga, Tenn. voted to repeal a similar ordinance passed in November 2013 and in Houston, city officials said Aug. 4 that an effort to put its new equal rights ordinance up for referendum vote did not qualify for the ballot. Opponents trying to repeal the measure are now fighting that decision in court.
City Council members finally voted on the measure around 3 a.m. Tuesday after hours of testimony by residents. During debate among the council members, councilman Shaun Brown, said he was for much of the ordinance, but against adding the protections to public accommodations — like public restrooms and locker rooms, according to the paper.
In a statement on Facebook, the Montana Human Rights Network, said the vote was “disappointing,” but that advocates would keep fighting.
“The hard work and powerful testimony tonight and over the last two months was incredible,” the organization said. “Tomorrow we will regroup. Thank you to everyone who stood up and spoke out.”
Four other Montana cities — Helena, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula — have previously approved such LGBR nondiscrimination protections, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
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