I probably don’t have to express my support for the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Helena – it ought to go without saying. But there are a couple issues I think some Helenans don’t understand about the ordinance, and outside groups are using those misconceptions to undermine this ordinance.
The first and most common misconception is that people who are gay or transgendered are merely looking for special rights, and that those opposing the ordinance are normal, decent people who just want to see equal rights. This is certainly not the case. LGBT groups have long demonstrated that they are discriminated against, and the facts are hardly deniable (though we’ll get to that later). The opposition, on the other hand, is being aided by the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Arizona-based group that also supports students calling their homosexual peers ‘shameful‘ and condemned by God. It’s pretty clear which side here is being radical and inviting conflict.
Secondly, there are the inevitable accusations that gay people just make up discrimination against themselves because they want to feel special or some other imaginary reason. One of my friends from high school had his jaw broken in high school because of his perceived orientation. He was testifying at the city commission meeting, and seeing the veracity or seriousness of his testimony doubted in the IR comment section would be laughable if it weren’t so infuriating. It’s all the worse because I still work in a high school, and I still see the blatant discrimination even in our youth against LGBT people.
Finally, many people, rather optimistically, believe that LGBT people are already protected by the Montana Human Rights Bureau. From another IR comment: “Last time I checked the State of Montana had a Human Rights Bureau. Which, by the way, carries substantial fines for discrimination” This perception is aided a bit by the rainbow colored human outlines on the front of the webpage, but they are quite clear about their authority extend to discrimination based on:
Age, Marital Status, National Origin, Physical or Mental Disability, Race/Color, Religion/Creed, Sex (including pregnancy, maternity and sexual harassment), Familial Status (housing only), Political Beliefs or Ideas (governmental services and employment only), Retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination or for participating in a human rights proceeding
“General unfair treatment not based upon one of the protected classes listed above”
It’s quite clear that LGBT people are not protected by any state laws. And while I don’t have any numbers on allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientations, it’s not hard to imagine why they would be few: making such a complaint provides no hope for reinstatement in one’s job, and requires publicly advertising an aspect of oneself that a person believes lost them one job already.
Altogether, I think most people in Helena are reasonable people, and if they oppose the ordinance, it’s because they don’t understand the fanaticism of the opposition or believe that the LGBT community is exaggerating their problems or underrating the protections they already have. Hopefully a full discussion of these issues will better inform them of the realities facing this community and encourage support for this ordinance.