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Dozens attend meeting for Idaho Falls anti-discrimination ordinance

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Jun 13 2013 11:04:04 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 14 2013 12:53:27 AM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

The city of Idaho Falls is edging toward a possible sexual orientation anti-discrimination ordinance.

Thursday night was the first time a possible ordinance to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation within Idaho Falls city limits was discussed in an official meeting.

With dozens of folks in attendance, public interest was obvious.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. on Thursday night and was labeled a "special work session" ahead of the regular 7:30 p.m. city council meeting.

The city council was seated more casually in the round -- typical of a work session.

Patrons, including our station, were provided a draft version of the ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor crime to discriminate in areas of housing, employment, or public accommodation based on someone's actual or perceived sexual orientation.

The public was invited to approach the council and discuss.

"I'm not sure what kind of society some people are living in if they don't know that gays and transgender people face all kinds of barriers," said Dan Henry.

Sierra Gormsen, a transgender female, said she hears stories of discrimination from members of a transgender support group she started for members of that community. Gormsen said the youngest member of her support group is 11 years old, and faces constant discrimination.

"I've gone to stores inside the mall or other small businesses, and have received absolutely no help," said Gormsen.

Though most public testimony seemed to advocate for an ordinance, other speakers insisted the city do away with the idea.

"If a Christian in Idaho Falls regards homosexuality as a sin, you know, what business would you recommend for him or her to start if they think that to enforce this kind of (anti)-discrimination is violating the freedom of their conscious?" said Idaho Falls pastor Todd Wood.

Wood added he would pray for the council to make the right decision.

"Every civil rights movement ran into the same same conflict and the same kinds of statements really," said Jim Francis, "Yet we as a society managed to figure out we needed a civil rights law, and that law fundamentally changed this country for the better."

Francis is an adjunct instructor of U.S. History at Idaho State University.  

Shannon Havens was one of the last speakers to address the council.

"I don't want anything special," said Havens. "It would be nice if someone didn't tell me that the reason they don't want to hire me is because I'm not, 'girl enough' for them. Because I'm just fine being the way that I am."

The final word: the draft provided to patrons on Thursday will go up on the city's website shortly, and from there will go through several readings and possible amendments before a vote of the council.

Pocatello passed a similar anti-discrimination ordinance on June 7.

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