Under the Influence? LDS Church Leader suggested Pocatello ARFP meeting

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A meeting between a national conservative religious group and Pocatello’s city council members, regarding a LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, was arranged by a local leader of the LDS Church.

According to the Idaho State Journal,” It was the Regional Public Affairs Director for the LDS Church, Larry Fisher, who first contacted Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad about giving an audience to Jacki Pick of the Washington-based conservative group so she could talk to city officials about the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance..”

Pick,  a senior legislative advisor for the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program, met with Council members on April 4th, ahead of a vote on an ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orintation or gender identity.

Fischer, Regional Public Affairs Director for the LDS Church, tells the Journal,”The Church has spoken publicly in support of nondiscrimination ordinances, and also recognizes the need for balance and the importance of all voices being heard. We felt that ARFP had a valuable perspective to offer regarding balance in crafting nondiscrimination ordinances.”

According to the Associated Press,”The meetings (with Pick) were held over five sessions and none included a quorum of the council, so no notes were taken.” The Journal reports that,”Lunch was brought in for a total cost to the city of $75.90.”

The Journal reported last month that Pick emailed Mayor Brian Blad a copy of a new purposed ordinance that, according to Deputy City Attorney Kirk Bybee,”removed criminal sanctions for violations and essentially allowed those with ‘sincere religious beliefs’ in opposition to the gay lifestyle to discriminate.”

Curiously, the LDS church supported a 2009 anti-discrimination measure in Salt Lake that includes sanctions for those who violate its ordinance. The Salt Lake ordinance, like ones passed in Boise and elsewhere, do allow for certain religious exemptions.

According to Local News 8-TV, Pick “repeatedly made claims that no ordinances like this have criminalized discriminatory behavior.” All four of Idaho’s LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinances call for imposing some sort of sanctions on would-be violators.

While the Council heard from the ACLU of Idaho and other local human rights organizations, the meetings with Pick mark the first major outside influence from a national conservative group on a LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinance in Idaho. It’s also important to note that none of the local or state organizations were given similar such meetings with council members.

The ordinance, drafted by Bybee, was defeated in a three to three tie, with Mayor Blad casting the tie-breaking “no’ vote in April.

A newly drafted ordinance was introduced to the Council on May 9th, but according to Local News 8, “the (City’s) Human Rights Committee advised the Council to postpone a vote on the ordinance until after the elections in November.

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Pocatello unveils new LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance

 

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Members of the Pocatello City Council discussed a newly drafted ordinance aimed at reducing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression during their working session this morning.

The purposed ordinance comes on the heals of the defeat of a similar measure by the city council last month. Some say the new ordinance, which was drafted at the request of Mayor Brian Blad who cast a tie breaking no vote for the previous proposal, takes a more moderate stance on the issue.

According to a draft published in the meeting agenda, the new ordinance recognizes that,”every person has a sexual orientation and a gender identity/expression”,  it also acknowledges that discrimination against such classes in cases of employment, public accommodation and housing could and does occur, but it narrows the definitions of what exactly constitutes such discrimination. It also broadens the scope of who is exempted from following the ordinance.

One of the major concerns for supporters of a antidiscrimination ordinance has been the outside influence of  Jacki Pick, a senior legislative adviser for Ethics and Public Policy Center. According to the EPPC website the organisation was “established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral
tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy
issues.”

The  Idaho State Journal reports that,”Pick spent most of the day April 4 in meetings with city officials and sent a proposed new ordinance to Mayor Blad five days before the April 18 council meeting.” She also,”told council members that the ordinance needed more exemptions for possible enforcement if people objected on “religious grounds”, the Journal reported.  The Pocatello meetings mark the first major outside influence from a national conservative group on a LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinance in Idaho.

Blad’s vote against the previous ordinance has sparked a groundswell of support for former Mayor Roger Chase, who lost to Blad in 2009 and is once again seeking re-election. According to the Idaho State Journal, Blad “explained his decision, saying he was committed to developing an ordinance that will be supported by the entire community.” Chase, who has been supportive of LGBT issues in the past told the Journal,” issues surrounding the ordinance should have been resolved prior to the vote being taken.”

This morning’s meeting drew a strong turn out from supporters of a anti-discrimination ordinance. Many say the latest proposal is better than no ordinance at all, though some wonder just how much protection it will really offer. Four cities in Idaho have enacted LGBT anti-discrimination measures. Boise, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Ketchum have all banned LGBT discrimination within city limits.

You can read the new proposal HERE.

A Facebook page has been set up to help end LGBT discrimination in Pocatello. You can find that HERE. 

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