Billings, Montana Mayor Casts Deciding Vote To Kill LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

HanelJust after 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, Billings, Montana Mayor Tom Hanel cast the deciding vote against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) that would have protected Billings residents from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The Billings Gazette reports on how the 6-5 city council vote went down:

Hanel said he applied a standard from Rotary International to help him reach his decision: “I needed to ask myself, is this fair to everyone, beneficial to everyone? Will it build goodwill and friendships? I can’t say for sure,” he said of the NDO.

Shaun Brown, another council member who opposed the NDO, specifically opposed a provision in the ordinance “that would have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations — namely, restrooms and locker rooms” and “alternates that would have allowed for monetary damages to people successfully arguing they were discriminated against.”

The debate on the NDO seemed to drive a wedge between many in the Montana community. Denis Pitman, another “no” vote on the NDO commented that he was disappointed “how much this issue has divided the council and the community.”

Supporters of the NDO meanwhile were disheartened by the measure’s defeat. Said Shauna Goubeaux, who along with her wife Nicole have challenged Montana’s same-sex marriage ban

“My wife and I own our own home, and we’re employed by companies that are open and embracing” of their marriage, which occurred in another state, she said. “Our lives aren’t as impacted, but the lives of our friends are impacted by this vote.”

Bill Cromley, one of the five council members to vote in favor of the ordinance, told the council before Hanel cast the deciding vote, “There is a gay agenda. They want to be treated as real human beings.”

Cromley’s remarks did nothing to sway Hanel’s opinion that Billings is not ready for an NDO that would protect its LGBT citizenry. Hanel’s final advice to the crowd as the 8 1/2 hour meeting drew to a close was to “walk out of here as professionals”:

“We were all created equal,” he said. “If you can’t sit by someone who disagrees with you, shame on you.”


  1. fanboi says

    “If you have a choice between going down in a plane crash or landing in Billings Montana, go down in the goddamn plane… women in high heels and socks! Have you ever been there?”

  2. SHESDEAD says

    More American logic from somewhere down the rabbit hole –

    Clean cup, clean cup – move down, move down – Clean cup, clean cup – MOVE DOWNNNN!

  3. Billings Native Unfortunately says

    Although this article didn’t include this information, it is interesting to note:

    The same members of the city council (and the mayor) who voted to kill the NDO had previously voted for and submitted a petition to the Montana Attorney General asking whether cities were able to create NDOs. If the AG says no, that will void the NDOs in four other Montana cities. It wasn’t enough for them to discriminate in Billings: they are attempting to remove what little protections exist in four other cities.

    This is the same city that inspired a national movement called Not in our Town over twenty years ago when it stood against prejudice. It recently hosted the national conference for Not in our Town and received many accolades for standing against discrimination.

    That night, a person from the Montana “Family” Foundation was very rude to a city councilwoman (the one who started the NDO). When she tried to defend herself, the mayor immediately shut her down and would not allow her to defend herself against baseless, rude comments.

    When at least one person called for the death of all LGBT people in front of the city council, the mayor THANKED HIM for his testimony.

  4. Sergio says

    “Hanel said he applied a standard from Rotary International to help him reach his decision…”

    Does he validate other life decisions from the Betty Crocker box recipes and the coupon rags outside of IHOP?

  5. David McCain says

    As a member of Rotary, and a past president of my local Rotary Club, I would like to inform the mayor that neither Rotary International nor districts or local clubs practice or permit discrimination of the sort he by his veto has endorsed. His paraphrase of Rotary’s “4-way Test” is a distortion of the organizations principals. His veto is not fair to all concerned, and it does not build good will and better friendships.

  6. It get's better says

    Thanks David! Clearly, he was operating on a flimsy reasoning and trying to find some solid ground to base his decision. It was not fair to hide behind Rotary principals, nor was in an accurate depiction of them. Furthermore, he contradicted himself up and down.

    I have actually been impressed with Hanel’s ability to make positive impacts in Billings on other matters. And, I think he has brought many people together. I would never villainize him. But, he tends to have vastly different political beliefs than me. Usually, he keeps them below the surface. Usually, he is fairly neutral yet able to lead. But, in this case, he fell short and sadly, I wasn’t surprised.

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