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Anti-discrimination ordinance draws opposition over wording

Some local groups are speaking-out against a city ordinance aimed at protecting people from discrimination.

The activist group called Stand Up Pocatello is calling this the “bathroom bill” although it is formally known as the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. Some activists from this group are saying, although they are not against the ordinance itself, they are concerned some of the wording imbedded in the draft is too ambiguous and might cause problems if it passes.

They feel the term “gender identity” is too loosely defined and are afraid this might allow some loopholes for individuals who exploit those who associate with being transgender.

Valley County prosecuting attorney Matthew Williams said he does not want men who define themselves as women to be using the same bathroom as his daughter if, in fact, that individual does not actually consider themselves as a female.

“And what about a battered women’s shelter?” Williams pointed out. “You don’t allow men in for obvious reasons. Now someone comes in and identifies themselves as a woman. At that point you have to let them in. If you don’t, you’re violating the law.”

Representatives from the group Too Great For Hate helped co-sponsor the bill along with the NAACP and feel these concerns will not be an issue since the laws already in place which protects individuals against these situations from happening cannot be trumped.

“Any existing laws covering public accommodations still hold,” Too Great For Hate coordinator Pastor Craig Pesti-Strobel said. “In fact, that is in some of the wording and it does not supersede anything else.”

Another representative from the anti-discrimination group, Susan Mastuura, said the whole point of proposing this ordinance was to guarantee the safety for everyone living in the community.

“That’s the major focus of the ordinance,” Mastuura said. “And to have all those other side angles really belittles and makes light of what we’re trying to do here.”

A copy of the proposed ordinance draft can be found here.

The first reading of the draft will be held on April 4 and Too Great For Hate will be hosting a panel discussion Wednesday evening at six o’clock at the First Congregational United Church of Christ to discuss this issue further.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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