A grassroots effort to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act took a significant step forward in January following a day of several highly attended statewide rallies and events in support of the action, and the announcement of a print hearing on February 10th by the Senate State Affairs Committee to consider the legislation. The hearing is slated for 8 a.m. in the West Wing 55 State Affairs room at the Idaho State Capitol Building and is open to the public, though no testimony will be heard.
About 1,000 people turned out alone on January 28th at the Capitol in Boise to shout out their support of the “Add the Words” effort, which includes a campaign encouraging Idaho residents to write their legislators personal messages of support for the bill on sticky notes, which are then posted in the Capitol building for legislators to see. Idaho residents unable to post their own sticky notes can text a message in 20 words or less to 208-724-1761, or send an email to email@example.com.
The Boise rally concluded with attendees filing into the Capitol and posting their sticky notes – a total of about 300 – on the doors of the House and Senate chambers and in the halls of committee rooms. Common Ground Community Chorus, a recent Pride Foundation Idaho grantee, performed the national anthem on the Capitol steps, while Idaho Sen. Nicole LeFavour and Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb both took their turns at the podium to express their support of Add the Words.
Other rallies, vigils and similar events were also held on January 28th in Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Caldwell, Moscow, Nampa, Weiser, Troy, Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene and Plummer, according to Add the Words spokesperson and co-organizer Mistie Tolman.
“All bigotry and forms of discrimination are wrong,” Tolman told the Boise rally crowd. “Never again should any of us live in fear because of who we are.”
“We’re not going to be second-class citizens. There should be no such thing,” added longtime Idaho LGBTQ activist Doug Flanders of Boise, also speaking at the Boise rally. “We deserve equal rights under the law.”
Concerted citizen efforts pushing for the legislation started in 2007. A bill was printed in 2008 by the Senate State Affairs Committee, but has never had a print hearing since then, nor has it ever received a public hearing.
“We are here to demonstrate the level of public support there is for including gay and transgender people in our fair employment, housing and education laws,” Tolman said, “and to encourage Idaho’s Legislature that it’s time to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act.”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.