That's the question the Helena Independent Record is asking online poll this week.

Our answer is not just, “Yes,” but, “Hell, yes!” (Please vote.)

You only needed to be at the Helena City Commission meeting Monday night to understand why.
Hundreds of people showed up to comment on the proposed ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, housing and businesses open to the public. Those opposed to the ordinance claimed benches early as supporters rallied in front of the building. And those opponents refused to allow supporters seats even in places where there was room for more people.

It was a very visible demonstration of how these people want to refuse LGBT people the rights they themselves take for granted. If they won’t even allow a gay person (or a person who supports gay people) a seat next to them at a public hearing, what do you think the chances are that they would let that person rent an apartment or hire them?

You get the idea.

It was so inspiring to hear people like Bobbie Zenker (pictured here at the hearing) talk about how their lives have been impacted by discrimination, but that they believe that the bulk of the public supports their right to be treated equally. We agree. Most people in Helena, and in Montana, support fairness. They want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect. Those at the hearing who were filled with fear and loathing are truly the minority.

Bobbie wrote an eloquent blog entry about the hearing, and particularly about an amendment that seeks to bar “pre-op” transgender people from locker rooms. In such instances, they would be forced to use the locker room of the sex matching their “anatomical” gender.

We oppose this amendment for a number of reasons:

  • It seeks to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no evidence that ensuring transgender people can use locker rooms conforming to their gender identity results in increased acts of voyeurism or violence.
  • Prohibiting people from using facilities designated for the gender they identify with causes severe psychological harm – the same kind of harm that opponents of the ordinance and proponents of this amendment would feel if they were forced to use the locker room of the opposite sex.
  • The discomfort of others is not a reason to deny people their civil rights. We wouldn’t tell a breast cancer survivor she can’t use the women’s locker room because of her mastectomy scars. Part of being a compassionate human being is respecting the rights of others even when it makes us uncomfortable.
  • This amendment doesn’t take into account people who don’t conform to traditional gender characteristics, including people who are intersex (born with both male and female genitalia) or those who have been injured – take a soldier wounded by an IED in Iraq.

That said, we know that a nondiscrimination ordinance would go far to help people get the dignity and respect we all want and need and to have the security they need to support their families.

Please show your support for the ordinance at the official hearing at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17 at the Helena City/County Building.