Council gets its third go-around with the NDO on Monday

2014-07-18T12:50:00Z 2014-07-21T06:56:16Z Council gets its third go-around with the NDO on MondayBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Billings City Council will get its third crack at evaluating the language of the proposed nondiscrimination ordinanceduring a work session Monday.

The work session, during which no formal action is generally taken, begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

Besides council discussion and the opportunity for public comment, the ordinance is the work session’s only item of business.

Previous discussions on the language of the proposed ordinance have drawn large crowds on both sides of the issue. During work sessions, speakers are limited to 60 seconds each.

Among the updates from the second draft, which the city council discussed during its July 7 work session:

Gone is language that defined homosexuality as “erotic activity with another of the same sex.” Instead, the term is defined as “sexually attracted to people of the same sex.”

Gone, too, is this definition of bi-sexual: “of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward both sexes.” Instead, bisexuality is defined as “sexually attracted to people of both sexes.”

Also missing is language that defined transgender as “transsexual or transvestite.” In the newer version, transgender is “of, relating to, or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth.”

A section on housing accommodation removes a section excluding from the ordinance “dormitories or other sleeping quarters provided by universities, colleges or other post-secondary schools.” It replaces that language with exceptions for “the rental of sleeping rooms in a private residence designed for single-family occupancy in which the owner also resides, providing that the owner rents no more than three sleeping rooms within the residence.”

A section prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and includes language that could require people to use restrooms and locker rooms designed for their anatomical sex, regardless of their gender identity. Such a requirement “does not constitute unlawful discrimination,” the proposal reads, but a note adds that further information on the section, 7-1805, will be discussed Monday, with attention paid to Helena’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

The July 7 discussion also brought about proposed language for civil remedies for violations of the ordinance. Three alternatives are presented in the third draft:

Limiting court damages to a maximum of $12,000, exclusive of fees and costs. Attorneys’ fees shall be awarded at the discretion of the Municipal Court and are not mandatory.

Limiting court damages to $3,000, exclusive of fees and costs. Again, attorneys’ fees are awarded at the judge’s discretion and are not mandatory.

No damages awarded to a successful complaint. “Reasonable” attorneys’ fees may be awarded at the discretion of the Municipal Court.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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