Fundamentally fair, artfully simple: Boise's anti-discrimination ordinance should pass

Here's a draft of our Sunday editorial:

No one should have to fear losing their job or their apartment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

That’s a matter of fundamental fairness. And it’s also a fairly simple concept. Several of Boise’s largest employers — Micron, Hewlett-Packard, Idaho Power, J.R. Simplot and St. Luke’s Health System — have such anti-discrimination policies on the books. Boise City Hall adopted a similar anti-discrimination workplace policy in 2006.

The Boise City Council can take the next logical and sound step on Tuesday. A city anti-discrimination ordinance — addressing employment, housing and public accommodation at a place of business — comes up for a third reading and a final vote.

It’s a compassionate ordinance — but also a balanced and artfully simple ordinance. It deserves a yes vote.

An appropriate response

It’s easy, but misleading, to look at the Boise ordinance in the context of state politics. In February, a Senate committee tabled a statewide anti-discrimination bill without even a hearing — to the outrage of nearly 300 supporters who crowded the committee room in a show of support.

But the Boise ordinance was in the works even before the Senate’s debacle, says Council President Maryanne Jordan. She began working on the idea about a year ago, after complaints of a Downtown “gay-bashing” incident. The victims did not want to pursue a criminal case, Jordan said, because they didn’t want to appear in court — and put their jobs at risk.

No one should have to choose between seeking justice and protecting their paycheck. And no community worthy of the name would put its residents in such a position.

Yes, passage of a Boise anti-discrimination ordinance would stand in stark contrast to the Senate’s gutlessness. But, as Jordan rightly says, “This was important to Boise regardless.” It is. This ordinance serves a specific purpose and addresses a demonstrated issue.

A simple approach

If this ordinance works as intended, Boiseans might not even see it in action.

When Jordan and council member Lauren McLean began looking at the idea, they studied some of the more than 125 ordinances in effect elsewhere. They heard a recurring theme: Focus on mediation.

This ordinance does just that. After a police investigation and legal review of a dispute, parties are encouraged to mediate. If mediation fails or if the parties refuse, a criminal charge can be filed. If the mediation succeeds, the settlement will remain confidential, unless both parties agree to go public.

A closed mediation process makes a lot of sense. It respects the privacy of those filing a complaint. It affords a landlord or a business with an avenue to reach an equitable, quiet settlement. McLean says the goal is to change behaviors rather than levy fines; that also makes sense.

And both parties can seek redress through the criminal justice system. Violating the anti-discrimination ordinance is a misdemeanor, while a complainant who files a false complaint may also face charges.

A city’s statement

Scenarios aside, the ordinance’s day-to-day impacts may be minimal. Sandpoint became the first Idaho city to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; the ordinance went into effect in January and has resulted in only one complaint, Jordan said.

But this doesn’t detract from the value of this ordinance. The peace of mind it gives to gay, lesbian and transgender residents. The message of inclusiveness it sends beyond Boise’s borders, to newcomers and new business. (The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce supports the proposal.)

We agree with McLean. By promoting a safe, healthy community, an anti-discrimination ordinance is one component of a “21st century city.”

Its time has come.

1354315801 Fundamentally fair, artfully simple: Boise's anti-discrimination ordinance should pass Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Finally....bout time I was treated fairly for being a

white guy....

It bears repeating:

"passage of a Boise anti-discrimination ordinance would stand in stark contrast to the Senate’s gutlessness"

Pass it

Harvey Milk, himself murdered by stupid bigotry, may have put is most succinctly; "It's a simple matter of justice." Pass it!

Discrimination and Property Rights

This is all great and dandy, except for the way it rides roughshod over private property rights. If a public entity or corporation that does business through grant of state or government issued license or on commercial property discriminates, that is one thing. Pure private property and landlords, doing any kind of business as sole proprietors, quite another.

Discrimination is a fact of life. ALL people "discriminate" in 1000 ways everyday, conscious or unconsciously. No government-connected entity that receives public money or license to operate can be allowed by law to discriminate. Only the naive or ignorant think otherwise. Yes, even Kevin Richert discriminates everyday. On the other hand, no truly private property owner can be coerced, holding a property right, to submit to such ordinance. It's both un-Constitutional and un-American.

If a private owner discriminates, in ways that are apparently punitive to a certain class of people, they will suffer in the marketplace. That does not give the government power to impose public sanction on their private behavior. This is just more typical over-reach of government and is just as immoral as the discrimination.

Oh boy, sigh

1) A portion of the folks who wrote the constitution owned slaves. The constitution did not outlaw slavery. We ended up fighting a war over that in which 600,000 died. The constitution was (and is) not perfect, and has evolved over time.

2) The government has the right and duty to intervene (and step on individual rights if necessary) when a segment of the population is being discriminated against on private property. You can't count on the magic hand of the market place to remedy all ills. The South was doing just fine economically during slavery, and fought against integration after the war partially on the grounds that to allow it would hurt their businesses.

3) Maybe we do all discriminate, and maybe we all lie; but sometimes lies and discriminating are illegal.

I realize the issue is murky at times, and we will as a society try to strike a balance, but sometimes it is as clear as black and white, or gay and straight.

I disagree, in part

This proposed ordinance is all about fairness and equal protection under the law. One counter-argument would be to contend that it is perfectly legal and moral to discriminate against people because they attend the "wrong" church, or identify with the "wrong" political party, or graduated from the "wrong" college or university. If a Boise restaurant, for instance, posted a sign in its windows saying "U of I Alumni only", how long would Boiseans put up with it?

For a civil society to survive, there have to be certain limits placed on private property owners. Otherwise, chaos would ensue in very short order. For instance, cities maintain detailed zoning ordinances that regulate what property owners can, and can not, build on a given parcel of property. If such ordinances didn't exist, if people could build whatever wherever without restriction, then there would be nothing to stop an entrepreneur from building and operating a bar with an outdoor concert arena in the middle of a neighborhood, next to a church.

In this instance, this ordinance puts in place a mechanism for education of landlords, property managers, and business people. At the same time, it also puts in place a very reasonable safeguard for the local (and visiting) LGBT community while protecting society as a whole. Thing is, when someone is evicted because of their orientation or identity, odds are they will become homeless, hopefully for only a short period of time. Thier forced homelessness, then, becomes everyone's problem. Likewise, when an employee is terminated for the same reasons, their unemployment becomes society's problem.

Is this ordinance ethical, moral, and badly needed? Absoluteley.