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Last month, on April 12, Taryn Nash stood at a microphone and shared her reasons for cheering on the equality ordinance in Missoula.

In the wee hours of April 13, the Missoula City Council widened the umbrella that protects people from housing and work discrimination so it includes Nash, a member of the LGBT community - folks who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

On Thursday, the law takes effect.

"I think that it is important this ordinance passed, because people like me who are an asset to the community shouldn't be discriminated against based on one aspect of their life," Nash said.

The ordinance is one of at least 131 similar laws across the country, but it's touted as a first for Montana. Since it was proposed, a group called NotMyBathroom.com has been working to repeal the ordinance.

The chairman of NotMyBathroom.com is Tei Nash, the father of Taryn Nash, so her testimony last month came in direct conflict with the battle her father is waging. Nash made her position public then, and this week, she shared her reasons for taking a stand.

Nash said she decided to plunge into the public eye last month because her dad has preached a different message for so long. She doesn't believe she will ever change his mind, but Nash said she disagrees with the way her father is using his views, and she wanted to make the biggest statement she could. (Tei Nash declined to comment on his daughter's testimony.)

"My dad's not a bad person at all," Nash said. "He just has a very strong opinion about this, and I have my strong opinion, too, and unfortunately they clash. But I don't believe that my dad's opinion will be swayed by what I did or by what anybody else is going to do. I think he's a self-assured man, he is very intelligent, and he is able to have his own opinion."

***

Nash, of course, has an identity beyond the one that put her in the spotlight.

She's the owner of Alex, 5, an adorable yet sometimes pesky Pomeranian.

She likes to dance, and she loves classical music.

She's studying to be a physician assistant and wants to practice in Missoula. She has a scholarship from the Pride Foundation, and this week, she was awarded one from the American Academy of Physician Assistants. ("Super big deal!") Nash, 25, also has a soft spot for folks who have some years on her.

"I just love old people. I think that they are amazing people, and a lot of people don't care enough for them," she said.

Taryn Nash grew up in Missoula, and at the age of 16, she began working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home. Her passion is geriatrics, and she figures her grandparents are surely part of the reason.

"My wonderful grandparents were integral in raising me, and my grandpa, ‘Papa,' had a lot of issues that needed to be cared for in his last few years," Nash said of her mom's parents.

So she cared for her Papa, and the two remained close until he died last fall, at the beginning of her year in Spokane. She misses him every day. Her grandma, "Grammy," has Alzheimer's.

"My mom's family is very close, and I am so lucky to have such a wonderful family," Nash said.

In five or six weeks, Nash will complete her coursework through a University of Washington program and begin her clinicals. She hopes to return to her hometown for her work in the field, but she treasures the time she spent in Washington.

"Coming to Spokane and into this program and being surrounded by people that are accepting ... and loving and have the same view of life that I do has been amazing for me," Nash said. "I've felt a lot of support."

Her studies there haven't allowed her much free time, but when the weather warms up, she wants to float the river and barbecue. And there's always Alex, the Pomeranian. He has a brain injury, and she said his cuteness makes up for some annoying tendencies.

"I actually got him for my grandparents a few years ago to make their lives a little brighter," Nash said.

***

Even as it takes effect, the struggle against the anti-discrimination ordinance continues. NotMyBathroom.com members want to place the measure on the ballot and scrub it from the law books.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization working on LGBT civil rights, keeps track of such measures. State legislative director Sarah Warbelow said a similar fight is taking place in Bowling Green, Ohio.

She said in Kalamazoo, Mich., opponents tried and failed to kill a nondiscrimination ordinance during the last major election. So the law stayed on the books.

"What we're finding is the vast majority of Americans really do support nondiscrimination ordinances," Warbelow said. "While they may have some anxiety about how it will play out, particularly around gender identity and expression, they fundamentally believe that people should be hired and fired based on their skills - not who they are."

Nash's family lives in Missoula (her folks both have remarried), and she wants to work and live and own a home here. Those are some reasons she supports the ordinance.

"I want to be able to buy a house in Missoula, and my name is out there," Nash said. "I'm a responsible citizen, and I want to be able to have the same choices and rights everybody else does."

She said the law sends a positive message that people shouldn't experience hardships based on their sexuality. The law is about accepting people, a trait Nash sees often in the old folks she loves so much.

"No matter who you are or what you look like, they're kind to you, caring back if you show that you care for them," Nash said. "I don't know if that's really true of all of them. I am the way I am with them, so they think I'm sweet."

She doesn't consider herself a religious person, but she is spiritual. And Nash said caring for people and treating them well is at the core of her spirituality.

"Being in the medical field, you have to be open and caring for everybody, no matter what their circumstance or past has been," she said. "So I really think love and acceptance and caring for people is what's going to make this world better."

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

 

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