Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ketchum moves toward anti-discrimination law

Ordinance would protect on basis of sexual orientation

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum took the first step toward passing an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity/expression” Monday when the Ketchum City Council unanimously approved the first of up to three readings of the proposed ordinance.

Idaho law states that before a municipality can adopt an ordinance, it must be read on three different days—once in its entirety and twice by title only. However, if the majority of a council votes to do so, a council may dispense with the reading rule and adopt an ordinance after the first reading.

Lisa Horowitz, director of community and economic development said Tuesday that when an ordinance covers a new topic for the city and “there’s no absolute urgency,” the council will often have two or three readings.

“This ordinance is a new topic for the city and the council wants to give the public opportunity to comment before adopting the ordinance,” she said.

The council has scheduled a second reading during its next regular meeting on Jan. 7.

In an interview, Mayor Randy Hall said that from the city’s perspective, the issue is “simple.”

“The city has zero tolerance when it comes to discrimination based on somebody’s sexual orientation,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we lead by example and make sure everybody understands that there will be no discrimination in Ketchum when it comes to employment, housing or public accommodation, which basically means people can’t discriminate against someone based on sexual preference.”

Federal and Idaho laws prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodation and housing on the bases of race, color, age, sex, national origin and/or disability, but not on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Monday’s meeting packet states that more than 125 cities and counties and 21 states have adopted that additional legislation.

Sandpoint became the first city in Idaho to pass a similar ordinance last year, and Boise is in the process of doing so. The Boise City Council was expected to conduct a third reading of its ordinance and possibly adopt it during a meeting Tuesday.

The Ketchum meeting packet states that Ketchum’s ordinance is meant to “bolster” federal and state law, not “supplant” it.

“As required by federal and state law, the ordinance would not apply to religious organizations, certain private associations whose expressive associations would be burdened by the ordinance (such as the Boy Scouts), government agencies with offices within the city and some specific housing situations.”

A proposed Human Relations Review Board would be formed to investigate complaints of violations of the ordinance. According to the packet, the emphasis of the ordinance will be on “mediation and education.” However, violators could be charged by the Blaine County

Prosecuting Attorney’s Office with a misdemeanor.

“I think the founding fathers would be proud that local jurisdictions get to pass legislation that the federal and state government has not yet gotten around to,” Councilwoman Nina Jonas said Tuesday.

Brennan Rego:

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