Human rights organizations are hoping to build on the momentum of a recent resolution approved by the Whitefish City Council in Montana, which declared the city’s intention “to take a stance in support of diversity, inclusion of free speech, and freedom of assembly… and condemn ideologies, philosophies, and movements that deny a quality of human rights and opportunities,” as reported by the Whitefish Pilot.
That resolution, which was more of a symbolic gesture than an enforceable law, was spurred by the arrival of Richard Spencer to the community, a white nationalist who has declared his aspirations to create a “white ethno-state on the North American continent,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Activists in the small town of Whitefish, MT are now preparing to turn that resolution into an actual non-discrimination ordinance.
The ordinance would protect Whitefish citizens from unfair discrimination, and is specifically directed at housing, employment, and public accommodation protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents. Various Montana cities have tried to pass similar legislation in the past few years; some were successful, such as in Missoula and Helena, while other city councils couldn't pass their ordinances, such as in Dillon and Billings.
The prospective ordinance is being pushed by two human rights groups, the Montana Human Rights Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.
“Part of the role of government is to make sure all its citizens and visitors are treated with dignity and respect,” said Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director at ACLU of Montana, to the Whitefish Pilot. “The Whitefish City Council could help make that a reality for more people by passing a local LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.”
Not In Our Town previously explored extremism in the Flathead Valley where Whitefish resides in the PBS documentary, The Fire Next Time.