Urging him to halt his "ignorant and hurtful" crusade, the daughter of one of the most outspoken critics of Missoula's proposed equality ordinance came out Monday night as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"Dad. I strongly disagree with the way you have been portraying the LGBT community," said Taryn Nash, who identified herself as an LGBT member to her father for the first time during the public meeting of the Missoula City Council. "You have gone too far. I will not sit back any more and be quiet. I love you because you are my dad, but I have lost respect for you."
Nash's father, Tei Nash, is chairman of NotMyBathroom.com, the group formed to defeat the anti-discrimination ordinance, fearing for the safety of families. He apparently had left the overflowing City Council Chambers before she spoke, but on the live television feed, she told her father he risked losing her forever.
"You need to realize this crusade you are on is wrong, and it affects me personally," said Taryn Nash, who broke from her studies in Spokane to testify. "Right now I am ashamed to call you my father."
In the standing-room-only Council Chambers, cheers and tears erupted throughout more than three hours of public comment on the anti-discrimination ordinance. (The hearing was still in progress at press time late Monday night.)
Opposed as "barbaric" on one hand from Tei Nash and lauded as a "historic step" on the other, the measure drew a larger audience than any council meeting in at least the past three years.
The ordinance aims to protect people from discrimination in employment and housing because of "actual or perceived ... sexual orientation, gender identity or expression." It has drawn overwhelming response from the Missoula community and beyond.
The room had filled up well before the meeting began at 7 p.m., with people standing along the walls and some sitting cross-legged on the floor. One woman wore a rainbow flag draped over her shoulders, and another carried a small flag.
Mayor John Engen asked the audience to allow people who live in Missoula - constituents - to speak first. When people applauded early on, Engen warned that he would recess the meeting if they clapped for any speaker - in favor or opposed.
"Nobody is going to applaud tonight on either side," Engen said. "What it does is it ramps up the tension in the room, and there's plenty of that already."
Some leaders of local nonprofit groups threw their weight behind the ordinance, among them the Poverello Center and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. A Forward Montana representative noted she had 1,700 petitions to drop off in favor of the proposal.
Many pastors and religious leaders spoke, both for and against the ordinance. It would be the first of its kind in Montana but one of some 129 such local government ordinances across the country.
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Ron Thiessen, a Missoula pastor, said he believes in harmony and has been glad to hear discrimination doesn't happen often against people who are part of the LGBT community. But he said he doesn't believe the council should advance such a political agenda.
"I do not mock their pain, but social policy is not the place to resolve this discord in their lives," Thiessen said.
Iris Schmitt broke down in tears as she told the council how hard she tries to protect her children. Schmitt, who works at a school, said she teaches her children family values. She turns off cable television to protect her children, and she would love and seek help for a child who was gay.
"It's not appropriate behavior, and if they're born that way, there is counseling and there is help," Schmitt said.
Dustin Hankinson of Missoula described some of the opposing arguments as "insane." Hankinson said some of them made it sound like a pack of gay men were running around trying to capture people.
"We are America. Freedom," Hankinson said. "The arrow of freedom points to more freedom. It does not point away from freedom. We cannot claim to be the paragon of freedom and liberty and still maintain that it is absolutely acceptable to oppress people for who they are. It's contradictory."
Anne Harris, a licensed counselor, parent and grandparent, also urged the council to adopt the measure and called for "a clear statement from this body." Harris ended her remarks by telling the council she herself is a transgender woman and would like to tell people she lives in a community that supports LGBT folks.
"I and my family are proud to be from Missoula, Montana," Harris said. "Our civic pride will only increase."
Some members of the public explained how the ordinance would affect them personally. Chris Lockridge of Missoula said he's identified his partner as a "roommate" when filling out paperwork to rent a home. When his partner's mom died, he couldn't admit it to his supervisor.
"I was talking to my boss about getting time away from work and she asked me why. I lied," Lockridge said. "I was afraid."