Pocatello, the fifth largest city in Idaho, has vetoed an anti-LGBT discrimination ordinance by a narrow margin.
The bill, which would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations was voted on April 18 by the Pocatello City Council. The result was a 3-3 tie; Mayor Brian Blad broke it with a final vote against.
Before casting his vote, the mayor told the crowd gathered at City Hall that it hadn’t been an easy decision on his part. He said that he believed an ordinance could be drafted that would be more readily accepted, and ordered a planning session for May 9.
The hall was packed to capacity, and the failure of the bill caused some anger; though some people lingered at the scene for a while, the police force present didn’t need to act.
At the meeting, the Pocatello deputy city attorney, Kirk Bybee, explained that the proposed bill was written to be similar to anti-discrimination legislation that already passed in Boise, Moscow, and Sandpoint, other cities in Idaho.
A Salt Lake City ordinance was also brought up as a potential model; under it, a civil penalty is imposed on those found to be guilty of discrimination. Bybee explained that it would have legal issues for Pocatello he thought it best to avoid, and he felt that the ordinance did too little for those who had been discriminated against.
The bill was not open to public vote, but when the hearing began, citizen Susan Matsuura asked everyone present who was in favor of it to stand; more than two-thirds of the people in chamber seats stood up. Many in the crowd were already standing due to the hall being filled past capacity.
Idaho does not cover gender identity under its hate crime laws at the state level, and in 2006 passed an amendment to its state constitution barring Idaho from recognizing or performing same-sex unions; at that time, 63% of voters were in favor of the amendment.
After the May 9 planning session for a second anti-discrimination proposal, it will be introduced to the council on June 6.