HELENA, Mont. (AP)—Helena’s city commissioners have given initial approval to an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Tuesday’s 5-0 vote sets a public hearing on the measure for Dec. 17.
The proposed ordinance says in addition to state and federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age, race, religion, sex and mental disability the city seeks to extend protections to those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
The ordinance would require that in places such as athletic club locker rooms, users would be required to use the facilities designated for their anatomical sex regardless of their gender identity.
The ordinance also requires those claiming discrimination to first file with the state Human Rights Bureau. If the claim is rejected there, it could be filed with the city.
An estimated 200 people attended the meeting to express their support or opposition, but Mayor Jim Smith said Tuesday’s meeting was not the public hearing for the ordinance. He gave each side 20 minutes to speak.
Those who spoke on behalf of the ordinance said they wanted a community that was fair and welcoming to all. Those opposed argued there was no demonstrated need for the ordinance and it could bring significant costs to business owners if a claim is filed against them.
Opponents also expressed concern that the ordinance would allow people to pretend to be transgender in order to use public bathrooms for people of the opposite sex.
Proponents and opponents each will have an hour to comment during the Dec. 17 hearing.