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Billings City Council member says he's dropping NDO effort

Posted at 7:01 AM, Oct 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 09:01:22-04

Billings City Council member Brent Cromley told Q2 News Tuesday he is backing away from bringing a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) before the Council this month.

At a September council meeting, Cromley said he planned to bring an NDO to the council on Oct. 15. An NDO would make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity illegal in employment, housing and public accommodation.

But in his email Tuesday, Cromley stated, "Having heard from various individuals and groups that are most affected by a nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO), I have decided not to propose an Initiative to pass an NDO at the October 15 City Council meeting."

Cromley stated he's concerned that the NDO wouldn't pass, and he didn't want put stress on members of the LGTBQ community who support it. He added that he still supports the overall effort.

"I am extremely grateful to those persons and business organizations that have stepped up and shown public support," Cromley stated. "It is essential that that support continue and again be displayed in the coming months when the NDO will again be considered by the City. I intend to support those efforts."

Cromley wrote about how Billings needs to compete with other Montana cities, including Bozeman, Missoula and Helena, that have passed an NDO to retain younger people.

"Billings needs to compete with other cities," Cromley stated, "including the five Montana cities that have passed an NDO -- most of them unanimously -- to attract and retain younger generations, competitive businesses and visitors. That will only be accomplished if the City is seen as an inclusive community."

Cromley posted his full statement on Facebook:

The full statement:

"Having heard from various individuals and groups that are most affected by a nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO), I have decided not to propose an Initiative to pass an NDO at the October 15 City Council meeting.

Billings needs to compete with other cities, including the five Montana cities that have passed an NDO -- most of them unanimously -- to attract and retain younger generations, competitive businesses and visitors. That will only be accomplished if the City is seen as an inclusive community.

However, I have no desire to put stress on the very populations that are the subject of an NDO if an immediate positive result is not a certainty. I am extremely grateful to those persons and business organizations that have stepped up and shown public support. It is essential that that support continue and again be displayed in the coming months when the NDO will again be considered by the City. I intend to support those efforts."

Prominent NDO supporter Amelia Marquez, who unsuccessfully ran for the Montana Legislature in 2018, sees hope for the future of an NDO in Billings.

"With the municipal elections nearing in, we believe we can create true change by electing a more progressive council," Marquez stated Tuesday. "We will continue to focus on creating a safe community for Billings, and to help folks understand that an NDO would only create equal rights for everyone."

In 2014, NDO opponents argued that the measure wasn't needed because they didn't see evidence of discrimination. Other opponents cited religious reasons, and they worried the ordinance would allow both sexes to use the same public bathrooms.

Related: Billings City Council to look at non-discrimination ordinance again