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NDO: Testimony Revealed

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BILLINGS - In an early morning vote, city council members decided to move forward with the nondiscrimination ordinance.

All testimony, whether in support or opposition, was very emotional. "I see this ordinance and the ACLU as promoting the breakdown of the traditional American family," one NDO opponent said.

"Last week, a resident felt compelled to come to this chamber and tell you that gay people should be put to death," NDO supporter, Shelley Thomson said.

"I would like to be able to enjoy and pursue  my liberties just as much as anyone else," another NDO supporter said.

"Every person is endowed with worth and dignity that human judgment cannot set aside," one NDO advocate said.

The process lasted for hours. Hundreds of people had their three minutes before Billings City Council members Monday night and Tuesday morning, to share their concerns regarding the nondiscrimination ordinance, and after nearly nine hours of testimonies, council members ultimately decided to move forward with the ordinance in a 7 to 4 vote, which was a big win for the LGBT community. "I felt sort of compelled to be here. It was kind of a disheartening process actually," Thomson said.

NDO supporter, Shelley Thomson , said she hopes the nondiscrimination ordinance draft will bring equality among all community members, regardless of orientation. "I don't see it as a divisive issue. For me, if you really listened to those stories people have been discriminated against. It continues, and it will continue without the ordinance," Thomson said.

But, opponents like Lauren Carr are concerned the ordinance might infringe on her first amendment right to freedom of religion. Carr said, as a Christian musician, she would have to decline if asked to perform at a gay wedding. "I'm concerned about having to pay for a lawyer, because my faith would be in jeopardy. In that sense, my business might be in jeopardy, because lawyers cost a lot of money. I'm just a single freelance musician. I can't afford a lawyer. I would rather refuse work," Carr said.

With legitimate concerns from both sides of the aisle, city council members said they will review which nondiscrimination ordinance will be the best fit for Billings. And, City Administrator, Tina Volek, said a first draft is already in the works for city council members to review.

According to city workers, the first nondiscrimination ordinance draft will be presented to city council members during the June 16th meeting. The ordinance is the only item for consideration on next Monday's work session which begins at 5:30 PM in council Chambers.

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