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Pocatello Rejects Gay Rights Ordinance In Close Vote

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

An ordinance to ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people failed in the city council of Pocatello, Idaho, Thursday. The close vote was a setback for gay rights advocates. 

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad cast the deciding “no” vote, making it four against, three in favor. The ordinance would have made it a misdemeanor to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Those voting no said they didn't reach their decision easily.

Billie Johnson was among the crowd of people that packed into council chambers to watch the vote. She says the decision is disheartening to her and others in the gay community.

“I'm not clear whether it's Pocatello that isn't ready or Pocatello's leadership that isn't ready,” Johnson says.

The anti-discrimination measure was a tough sell in this heavily Mormon section of Idaho.

The city ordinance also attracted opposition from a Washington, D.C. religious liberty law firm called The Becket Fund. An attorney with the group wrote the law could be a “liability” for Pocatello.

The city’s mayor has asked for a new anti-discrimination ordinance to be written that is less controversial.