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City passes Non Discrimination Resolution

By: 
Alastair Baker
News Editor

The 5-1 result in favor of the Non Discrimination Resolution (NDR) was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation at the Red Lodge City Council on Tuesday.
After nearly an hour of passionate public comment, the fifth such discussion in the last few months, it took the council less than a minute to see the Resolution through.
The Resolution began life as an Ordinance some months back and was introduced by council member Anna Drew to create a remedy for any discrimination that could be perpetrated against any transgender or homosexual members of the Red Lodge community.
Drew reiterated that her reasoning centered on there being “no protection from the federal or state level for those groups” and the chance to show other communities that “everybody is welcome here” in Red Lodge.
During the course of Tuesday evening citizen’s opinions flowed back and forth about the necessity of the Resolution.
David Westwood felt the whole process had caused “divisiveness” and had been “counter productive to the stated objectives to acceptance and tolerance.”
“If the goal was to bring people together, it is painfully obvious it has not,” he said.
Westwood felt the City had limited time and resources to deal with this and had other more pressing issues.
“Put a lid back on this Pandora’s box. Think about the next issues. Will there be an ordinance that Red Lodge be a Sanctuary City or an ordinance that mandates that every home with an able bodied person is required to own a gun?” he asked. “You can’t change the way people feel by passing ordinances or resolutions.”
Transgender, Gwendolyn Gunn, supported the resolution.
“This needs to be done because there is discrimination in this town and it needs to be stopped,” said Gunn.
Gunn feels there should be “more protection in this town but I understand there is trepidation for going forward with this kind of thing. This is a very valuable stepping stone.”
“I don't know if this has the power to make anyone safer,” said Cynthia Marble. She felt the Resolution eliminated the rights of other groups to favor one party over another.
“What we need is something that doesn’t divide our community. That takes everyone into account. We are operating from stereotypes and we never did as a community. That was never how we operated,” she said. “This creates what you are attempting to not have. (You) can’t say someone of religious conscience is a homophobic, bigot, hater. Maybe you don’t have religious conscience or understand it. Maybe we can come to a place of understanding and this doesn’t bring this to the community.”
Alexis Adams called the notion that Red Lodge is friendly “baloney.”
Adams, who grew up in Red Lodge, remembers, “Friends beaten because they were too smart, shy, possibly gay.”
“Gwen (Gunn) could not have lived in Red Lodge at that time. Red Lodge is not the friendly town we think it is. Historically it is a pretty racist, homophobic place,” she said.
“We need to set ourselves apart from that image we have. Talk to anyone in Billings. They come here to party, come here to fight and beat up on people. We do not want that reputation and we have it still,” she said.
“This is a statement of the values of a democratic society. We have to defend that in a pretty difficult time. We have national leaders who talk about hanging people for being gay,” said Susan Elliott. “It is really important for Red Lodge to put ourselves on record for democratic values and justice for all.”
She agreed that most of us are prejudiced but that there was room to love those who oppose this.
Tamara Boggio Upton, who has a gay teenager, said they’re “just people.”
“They’re not born to divide anyone yet people feel they are out to get them. Not true. You can’t teach someone to love a certain way, you can teach someone to hate,” she said. “Set an example by allowing this to pass and we can set the tone for other cities. You only really need common sense for a moral compass.”
“I think at the very least we have something in Red Lodge that you can't get in Billings,” she said.
As the debate wound down Mary Cameron let the council know that “the people who live in Red Lodge, you’re constituents, have overwhelmingly supported this resolution. And the people who have not supported it, live out in the county. Only one person so far from your constituent base has not supported this.”
The council acknowledged this information.
Prior to the vote, the Council had a chance to comment on the Resolution.
Glory Mahan said she “Sympathized with people being discriminated against. I was when a child, not because of anything I did but because of what my mother did.”
“The sad thing is you can’t legislate people’s feeling, attitude and ideas. I don’t believe in social engineering. If a person’s moral sense is askew, any law, rule, resolution is not going to fix that,” said Mahan.
Another council member Martha Brown found the whole episode “Inspiring and brave.”
Drew focused on comments made earlier.
“(I) want to touch on the idea that we don’t legislate morality. We discussed the First Amendment, and we talk about protecting religion. That’s a moral statement our nation made at it’s founding. We make moral statements with every law that we pass. And in order for all groups to be included, all groups have to be acknowledged by the law. When we created the Bill of Rights for every man is created equal, and all the language, justice for all, that we embed in our nation’s founding texts we’ve learned every single decade there are people who we forgot to include,” said Drew. “This is a group of people we forgot to include and while we wish the Bill of Rights naturally applied to everyone, we've proven when we had to give women the right to vote and black people the right to freedom and so many other extensions of civil liberties that this is part of the process and it is sometimes uncomfortable. We didn’t create a division that wasn’t here, we’ve brought it into the light and took out a flash light and all of you showed up and I’m really glad you did.”
On a final note Mayor Mike Schoenike disagreed with comments that the Resolution was “divisive” and “a waste of time.”
“Clearly the division already existed, we weren’t talking about it. We need to talk about things we are afraid of. The Resolution now is a statement of philosophy and I support it. We are saying we are against discrimination including these group,” said Schoenike.

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  • Saturday, April 20, 2019 - 9:00am
    The Fromberg Improvement Committee presents the Annual Pre-Easter Bake Sale, April 20 from 9 a.m. till gone, Front and Center at Leather Legends. Homemade pies from lemon meringue coconut cream banana cream sour cream raisin and more! Delectable cakes; pink champagne cake, chocolate cake, angel food cake, lemon chiffon cake w/lemon curd! Fromberg famous caramel rolls, fresh scones. Special orders (406) 668-7773.
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    Paintbrush Piecers Quilt Guild meeting will be Monday April 22 at 6 p.m. at the Cody Sr. Center. After a short business meeting the program will be a trunk show presented by Betty Hecker, Audrey Clark and Sharon Kaeding from Red Lodge. Meetings are free and guests are welcome. For information contact Marybeth 754-5399
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    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.

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