Printed on: December 13, 2012

I.F. council to mull banning discrimination

By Clark Corbin

Members of the Idaho Falls City Council will begin discussing a proposal to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to housing and employment.

Council member Sharon Parry said she pushed to have a discussion placed on the agenda for today's work session, set for 8:30 a.m. at the City Hall Annex. Council member Karen Cornwell said she also supports the measure and has been researching it for weeks.

Council members tweaked their meeting schedule in recent weeks so that morning council work sessions and official evening meetings will both take place on Thursdays.

Although the anti-discrimination issue is on the agenda, there is no formal ordinance to consider or vote on. Instead, Parry said she wants to begin a thorough and reasoned discussion on the topic. Parry said residents and friends have approached her about the issue, while Cornwell said she was inspired by other cities and towns adopting similar measures.

"This ordinance (banning discrimination) is just one facet of a good community whose members take care of each other and look after each other for the safety, welfare and equity between residents," Parry said. "That's why I'm doing this. I hope there is not only support, but I hope there is generous support from the mayor and council."

Cornwell said she hasn't talked to Parry but believes the city should act.

"I want us to do it. It's past time," Cornwell said.

Earlier this year, members of an Idaho Senate committee declined to introduce a similar measure that would have amended the Idaho Human Rights Act and applied statewide. But some communities in Idaho have adopted anti-discrimination laws. In 2011, Sandpoint became the first Idaho city to pass such a law, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee.

On Dec. 4, the Boise City Council unanimously approved an anti-discrimination ordinance, while city leaders in Ketchum and Pocatello are debating similar measures, according to The Associated Press.

Parry said she plans to share Salt Lake City's anti-discrimination ordinance and other materials with council members. If council members are open to the idea, Parry said she would like to work with attorneys to see about drafting a proposed ordinance to consider.

"I want to make sure the council takes this slowly and deliberately," Parry said. "I'm not in a rush. Good legislation takes time, and this will take time."

Clark Corbin can be reached at 542-6761. Comment on this story on Post Talk,