Non-discrimination ordinance

Former library Director Oscar Gittemeier sanitizes public areas in August at the Teton County Library. His departure, which some have called a “firing,” has the Teton County Board of County Commissioners considering action on some sort of nondiscrimination measure intended to protect LGBTQ folks. Gittemeier is transgender.

The county will evaluate a nondiscrimination measure in the wake of concerns raised last week about potential LGBTQ discrimination in the departure of former library Director Oscar Gittemeier, who is transgender.

What the measure will look like remains to be seen.

“I personally want to make sure that we explore all the options,” commission Chair Natalia D. Macker told the Jackson Hole Daily.

The Teton County Board of County Commissioners has, in the past, passed a resolution condemning hate. The board — then a separate slate of elected officials — did so in 2001 after Sept. 11, condemning both the terrorist attacks and the resulting “increase in discrimination, threats and violence against Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.

The resolution also said that Teton County “citizens pride themselves on diversity and respect for people of all races, faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations.”

Commissioners toyed with the idea of a similar resolution, more of a statement of community values than law, to meet the present moment.

The issue at hand is protecting members of the LGBTQ community, a concern members of the public raised at a Dec. 7 joint information meeting of both town and county elected officials.

With all the secrecy around Gittemeier’s departure, some attendees who spoke at the Dec. 7 meeting asked whether his gender identity had played a role in his dismissal. Some called it a “firing,” though officials have said little about his exit.

Among other claims, commenters pointed to an exchange in which Gittemeier emailed Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery for advice on advocating for a countywide nondiscrimination ordinance similar to the town of Jackson’s. That ordinance, adopted in 2018, prohibits throughout town discrimination based on “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

Commenters said Gingery did not respond. However, Gingery did respond to Gittemeier’s first email with advice about drafting a policy specific to the library. Gingery did not respond to the library director’s second email about a countywide measure.

That, combined with the lack of information about Gittemeier’s departure, led some to ask whether his gender identity was a factor.

“The limited information that Jackson’s queer community does have regarding recent occurrences at the library would lead any reasonable person to assume that an injustice has occurred,” Adrian Croke said last week.

That fear could be addressed in part, some suggested, by expanding the town of Jackson’s ordinance to the county. The county does not share the town’s power to pass ordinances, but Gingery has told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the commission can do other things: craft an internal county policy, make a statement through a resolution such as the one in 2001, or create a new rule, which would affect the general public and have legal teeth, through a separate resolution.

Four of five commissioners said Monday they were interested in a nondiscrimination measure but wanted to evaluate options. Commissioner Luther Propst did not address the issue during the meeting, but he later told the Daily he was interested in action, “more so if it includes specific and tangible steps to make Teton County more inclusive and equitable rather than merely a grandiose but meaningless statement.”

The commission will likely hear its options and evaluate possible actions later in December, or early next year.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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