Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anti-discrimination ordinance rhetoric heats up

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Rhetoric is heating up in the weeks leading up to an April 12 Missoula City Council discussion whether to pass an ordinance that would make it illegal to deny services, employment or housing to people based on sexual orientation or gender expression.

The tension was highlighted Sunday as representatives from Missoula’s conservative CrossPoint Community Church, led by senior pastor and outspoken ordinance naysayer Dr. Bruce Speer, crashed a meeting of religious community members gathered to discuss their support of the pending ordinance.

Pastor Peter Shober from the University Congregational Church (UCC), which hosted the gathering, says UCC made it clear when issuing invitations that the meeting was solely for supporters of the anti-discrimination ordinance.

And so it was unsettling when Speer showed up with four other men. “Was it an act of intimidation, I don’t know,” Shober says.

Speer’s Sunday appearance comes on the heels of last week’s emergence of a group dubbing itself “Not My Bathroom” (NMB) led by two of Montana’s most outspoken self-proclaimed moral arbiters, Tei Nash and Dallas Erickson. The group announced its arrival on the Missoula scene with a press release decrying the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance as a gateway to pedophilia and rape.

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According to the NMB release, “Businesses and the city taxpayers should be aware that if a rape or child molestation case occurs in a businesses bathroom as a result of this law both the business and the city can be sued by the victims. For these and many other reasons a coalition of several organizations and individuals has formed an alliance which will target the defeat of the proposed ordinance.”

But city officials are saying NMB’s argument doesn’t hold water, as there are no laws currently prohibiting a man from using a woman’s restroom and vice versa. That’s not what the law is about. Really, it’s about providing legal recourse to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have been denied housing employment or services based on their identity.

It’s pretty apparent the council has enough votes to push the law through, but it remains to be seen how much of a fuss NMB and CrossPoint will make leading up to it’s passage.

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