What a shame. Rather than tackle the serious issue of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Billings, city leaders punted the ball this week and tabled plans to consider a nondiscrimination ordinance.
To add insult to injury, some used the reasoning that there is no discrimination in Billings. “The city of Billings does not discriminate… I’m having a very difficult time supporting the non-discrimination ordinance. I think the time is not good,” said Mayor Tom Hanel. Councilman Shaun Brown intoduced the initiative to table the NDO with councilpersons Yakawich, Pitman, Cimmino, and McFadden voting with him. Council persons Crowley, Bird, McCall, Swanson and Crouch voted to introduce the language. Mayor Tom Hanel cast the deciding vote to table it.
Denying discrimination exists does not make it go away. It only allows it to persist and for its victims to continue to suffer. This is not what Billings is.
While the majority of Billings residents may be committed to fairness, you only need to look at the record of comments from past Billings City Council meetings or Billings Gazette letters to the editor to see that discrimination against people based on sexual orientation is very real. One recent example: Adam Burt, a youth pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, called being gay or lesbian a lifestyle choice at a recent Council meeting, and compared being discriminated against based on sexual orientation to not being able to take his dog to a city park and not revving his car too loudly.
LGBT people in Billings need real protections from those who would deny them a job, housing or business services simply for being who they are.
When Billings residents faced harassment and threats based on religion and race, the community stood up to that hate, and said, “Not in our town.” So why are city leaders balking at extending protections to LGBT people, and saying, “Not now”?
We still have a chance to change the City Council’s minds on the nondiscrimination ordinance. Let’s make sure we let them know now is the time to make sure everyone in Billings is able to work, live and play without fear of discrimination. And shouldn’t a city that prides itself on not discriminating at least be open to actually looking at a solution to what many told them is happening here.
Want to know what you can do?
Attend the Fairness for ALL Familes Rally on June 7th.
Email or call your city council person and tell them why you think Billings needs a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance and that we need it now.
Attend the City Council meeting on Monday, June 9th (6:30 pm) and use your voice to tell them why tabling this ordinance until a later date will not make it go away, nor will it make it easier down the line.
Sign the Statement of Support.