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Meridian passes 'Add The Words' ordinance

After the hearing, the council can chose to vote on the proposal or take more time to study it and get more input. (CBS 2 Photo)

The City of Meridian held a public hearing Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on a proposal to "add the words." The ordinance passed.

The six hour long hearing revealed a majority vote among the councilman and woman.

The ordinance bans discrimination throughout Meridian based on gender identity or sexual orientation, in housing or employment for example.

Violation of the ordinance would be an infraction punishable by a $250 fine.

"I try really hard to not speak for the entire council," said Luke Cavener, Meridian City Council member. "But for me personally, it boils down to Meridian is a community for families and families come in all shapes and sizes, and so I want Meridian to be an inclusive place for families of all different shapes and sizes, to be able to call Meridian a place to be home."

Groups such as Add The Words have tried unsuccessfully for years to get the state legislature to include "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to state discrimination laws.

Add The Words president Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln says she's thrilled to see cities embrace the idea but she's not giving up on the state legislature.

"We would still like to have a unified, codified protection in the Idaho Human Rights Act that goes across the entire state," she told CBS 2 News.

Cavener says the city has in recent days received some 200 emails about the proposed ordinance, most in favor but others opposed.

"The biggest reason I'm hearing citizens opposed to it is religious freedoms, a valid concern," Cavener said. "Secondarily we hear concerns about business operations and perhaps a reluctance to invest in Meridian if such an ordinance passed, and thirdly, others say it just isn't necessary."

After the hearing, the council can chose to vote on the proposal or take more time to study it and get more input.

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