Last week, Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill published an open letter describing his reasons for denying statewide equal protections for LGBTQ+ Idahoans.
In this letter, Senator Hill described the need to find “a balanced solution” or, in essence, a compromise between non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Idahoans and religious rights.
But we know what his rhetoric was code for, and we are here to affirm an important truth to Senator Hill: we will not compromise our legal right to be free from discrimination. Religious exemptions only serve to harm LGBTQ+ individuals, and tear apart the fabric of our families and our communities.
Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, Chair of Add the Words, Idaho, a longtime Pride Foundation partner organization that has been working for over a decade to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act—had this to say:
“[Hill’s Op-Ed] is simply using religion as a weapon to discriminate and further harm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Idahoans across our state…”
Pride Foundation Board Member Emilie Jackson-Edney of Boise added:
“Under such a proposal of carving out more protections for religious preference, transgender and gender non-conforming Idahoans could still face widespread discrimination and mistreatment, without any legal remedy. Transgender people are already living and working in Idaho, and should be treated with dignity and respect just like everyone else.”
Let us be clear: LGBTQ+ Idahoans and our families deserve equal protection under the law—and these protections mean nothing if employers, business owners, and others can use religious carve-outs to deny us our dignity and our humanity.
An alternative personal bill has been introduced this legislative session by Senator Maryanne Jordan that would simply include the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes in the Idaho Human Rights Act. We support this addition and the protections it would afford our community and hope that lawmakers interested in real legal equality will move SB 1015 forward.
All of us at Pride Foundation will not stop fighting for a better world for LGBTQ+ people and our families in Idaho and throughout the region. Thank you for your critical support and for continuing to fight alongside us.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Philanthropy Officer in Idaho.