Denise Joy for Billings

Billings City Council, Ward 3

Committed to Midtown

Billings Residents Deserve to be Treated Equally

August 9, 2017

I will support a discussion for our community about diversity and how best to address the problem of discrimination.  The city council should bring the community together to civilly and respectfully discuss how to proceed.  I will help facilitate that discussion.  Gathering our diverse community to meet each other and sit face to face to help find solutions and make new acquaintances.  This is a way forward from allowing fear of others and differences divide us and sometimes create misunderstandings.

Our community is diverse and will increasingly want equality.  In times past, our community did not think about different social arrangements.  Billings residents considered those private and not for public discussion, but that is no longer the case.  Residents choose to marry and build lives with those of the same sex.  Many resident consider that his or her assigned sex is not the same as his or her feelings of femininity or masculinity.  Regardless of how he or she is identified, they want equal treatment and are sometimes being singled out for discrimination.  This discrimination can not be allowed in Billings.  Our community needs to show leadership and protect those who face discrimination.  We are all equal and the Billings I experience, has that very compassion as a core value.  The city can not turn a blind eye or lack the leadership to face this problem.  

Billings will have to negotiate this new equality political landscape.  The city council has tried addressing the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, but residents and the council were not ready to show that leadership.  That does not mean the issue of discrimination and equality will go away.  A ordinance can be constructed to end discrimination and reflect the values of our community.  One try at addressing a difficult challenge is not reason to give up or feel that the challenge has been put to rest.  It most definitely has not.  Those who want recognition of their rights will try again, or choose to leave our community.  That would be a lose lose situation for Billings.

Billings risks losing the kind of young people who will add growth to the city.  Educated young people will choose the cities that have laws that match their needs.  Competition for growth in the region, could mean Billings not accommodating the aspirations of young professionals.  If entrepreneurs feel that Billings does not support the rights of all residents, they may choose a city that does.  

The Non Discrimination Ordinance can be seen in a larger context.  Some of larger cities of Montana have addressed this issue of discrimination.  They have passed Non-Discrimination Ordinances of some type.  Billings as the largest city has not.  We have failed in leadership and have not lead by example. We need a community commitment to equal treatment and anti-discrimination and a public discussion about how to write a fair and inclusive ordinance.  We can come together on the NDO without division or anger.  I support a community wide conversation on how best to protect those rights and addressing people’s fears or concerns.