Boise Pride was particularly meaningful this year for Pride Foundation’s staff and board who participated in the weekend’s festivities as part of the organization’s strategic planning retreat in Boise June 14–16.
For many, it was their first time visiting Idaho’s capital city, and for others it was a proud homecoming. All agree they were happily surprised and inspired by the growing show of support for the LGBTQ community here, something I, too, have noted in abundance this last year throughout the state.
The City of Boise’s adoption in January of a citywide ordinance protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations followed on the heels in northern Idaho’s of Sandpoint passing a similar ordinance a year earlier, and four other Gem State cities—Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello—doing so in the last six months.
In April, the Idaho Transportation Department amended its policy regarding changes to driver’s licenses to allow transgender individuals to correct the gender markers on their licenses without showing proof they have undergone surgery.
Boise has further embraced the LGBTQ community by hiring a new LGBT liaison, Katie Davey, and then raised the Rainbow Pride flag for the first time above City Hall on June 14 in commemoration of Boise Pride Week—a moment of personal pride for me as a longtime Boise gay man that I will never forget.
“Being in Boise was an opportunity for me to see the sameness in the issues that surround us,” said Greg Smith, a board member living in Bozeman, Mont. “We just want to be able to be who we are, without fear—and we’re getting there with some creative and considerable pride. I loved seeing the coalition of humans working together to make Idaho an accepting place. The sea of faces from the steps of the Capitol will remain in my memory as an inspiration for my work in Montana—and for our work in the Northwest.”
Jody Waits, Pride Foundation’s director of community giving, said she was struck by the size and enthusiasm of the Boise rally and festival crowd, and the large number of young people, families and allies who participated.
“Easily, though, the moment that just unexpectedly unraveled me was when the Boy Scouts presented the flags at the Boise Pride rally—and included the Rainbow flag,” Waits said. “As a lifelong Girl Scout, and knowing how intertwined those two organizations are, even if they are very separate, it was a moment I never ever thought I’d see. I was all tears.”
“My favorite Pride celebrations are the ones where I can meet new people, and Boise Pride was no exception,” said Gunner Scott, the foundation’s director of programs.” The size of the crowd and march was energetic, fun, made an impact, and you could still walk around and get to know people. Boise is a place with a big heart and determined LGBTQ community and allies who want the best for where they live. Seeing the giant Pride flag on the steps of the Idaho Capitol Building was amazing.”
For Jett Johnson, Pride Foundation’s Oregon regional development organizer based in Eugene, participating in Boise Pride was second only to helping on the educational outreach work for Referendum 74, the marriage equality bill passed in November in Washington.
“To hear stories of how we are helping the lives of LGBTQ Idahoans through grants, scholarships, and advocacy is quite similar to what’s happening here in Oregon, as well as the entire Northwest,” he said. “The impact of our work across our five states truly does have a ripple effect, which is awe-inspiring, motivating, and beautiful.”
“I have lived in Seattle all my life and had never spent any time in Boise until our weekend retreat, which is my loss,” said board member Jeff Sakuma. “I so greatly enjoyed the city itself—its setting, its neighborhoods, and its combination of being both cosmopolitan and quaint.”
Participating in the Boise Pride parade was especially significant for Sakuma.
“For me, Pride parades have become spectacles—more entertainment and less a sense of involvement,” he said. “Marching down the streets of Boise rekindled a sense of belonging and empowerment.”
Kathy Sewell, a board member and former Kuna, Idaho resident now living in Joseph, Ore., was most moved by the sheer jump in rally attendance compared to the last time she participated and helped co-organize Boise Pride in the mid-2000s.
“The moment I will hold in my heart was when I was standing on the Capitol steps looking out at the crowd,” she said. “There were at least four times as many people as there was the last time I attended. It is great to see the City of Boise embrace this festival now, and to see it taken to such great heights was amazing. I was proud to come home!”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.