Lewiston City Council passes sexual orientation policy change

LEWISTON, ID - The Lewiston City Council voted on a policy change that prohibits discrimination against hiring a particular group of citizens.

It's a topic that's often avoided due to its controversial nature. Members of the Lewiston City Council went back and forth Monday evening, discussing whether or not to add sexual orientation language to the city's non-discrimination hiring clause.

"It is not a civil right, it is dangerous behavior," said concerned citizen David Estes. "And we should try and curtail it and send a message to others that we're not going to support this behavior, and we're not going to continue to put our citizens in danger."

Estes spoke adamantly against the policy change. Mayor Pro Tem Brad Cannon, who says he has a family member in the LGBT community, countered Estes' comments.

"I mean they're all around and that's okay," said Cannon. "There's nothing wrong with that. But still I think it's something that we have to have because we can't get past those individuals who do discriminate."

Councilor Thyra Stevenson, who conference called into the evening meeting, questioned the point of the policy change.

"Why do we need to add anything more specific about sex, when it's already included?" said Stevenson. "Have we been violating the civil rights act?"

City attorney Jamie Shropshire disagreed with Stevenson saying sex and sexual orientation are not two and the same. Councilor Clinton Daniel has said he specifically does not support discrimination in any way against anyone, however he does take issue with categorizing people into groups. He says he believes quote "All people should be looked at as individuals and that if you are going to judge someone you should do it based on who they are, not what they are."

Daniel voted no for the policy change along with Councilor Stevenson.

"I mean there's so many groups that you could categorize people in, that people can and probably do at some points get discriminated against, why not just list them all?" said Daniel.

In the end, the policy change passed five to two to add sexual orientation to the list of groups in the non-discrimination clause for their hiring practices.

"This city has a good history of respecting individual rights that also translates into group rights," said Ohrtman.

An amendment to require city employees to live within city limits failed along with a proposal to remove the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday.