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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 08
Protestors return to Idaho capitol - Demand protection from discrimination
Section One
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Protestors return to Idaho capitol - Demand protection from discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Several hundred protestors occupied the Idaho Capitol Building on February 17, to demand that lawmakers act on legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.

They were part of the 'Add the Words' movement - the words in question being 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity.' The Idaho Human Rights Act currently forbids discrimination based on race, religion, disability, and other factors, but does not protect LGBT people.

Idaho is one of 29 states where it remains perfectly legal to fire LGBT employees, refuse to hire or promote them, or decline to rent to LGBT people. Washington's LGBT civil rights law was passed in 2006, under the leadership of then-State Representative and current Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

'This is the eighth year we've been working on this, the eighth consecutive session that they told us they won't even give us a public hearing,' said Mistie Tolman, co-chair and spokeswoman for Add the Words, the group pushing for the change.

'If we need to, there will be a ninth year and there will be a tenth year. We'll keep coming back. We're not going away until we right this wrong.'

Most of the demonstrators held signs or wore T-shirts emblazoned with the 'Add the Words' slogan, but some also held signs opposing House Bill 427, the religious freedom expansion bill from Republican Rep. Lynn Luker, that's pending in the Idaho House.

That measure would protect those who deny service to LGBT customers on religious grounds.

More than 500 people attended a recent public hearing to oppose that measure, and it was sent to the House's amending order, where any member may offer amendments. A stack of amendments a quarter-inch thick was offered by House members.

No action has been taken on HB 427 to date, and House Speaker Scott Bedke said it was 'not ready to advance at this point.'

Tolman, however, cautioned that the fact 'it could be called up at any time makes us uneasy, and we wanted to send a big message to House members to let them know that a large number of us don't believe that you should be able to use religion as a reason to discriminate.'

The February 17 demonstration was the third 'Add the Words' protest at Idaho's capitol this year.

In the first protest on February 3, 44 people were arrested after blocking all entrances to the Idaho Senate chamber, including clergy members, senior citizens and high school students.

On February 13, more than 60 activists marched in silence around the Statehouse and then filed through the rotunda, wearing matching 'Add the 4 Words, Idaho' T-shirts.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter offered a cryptic comment on the protest. 'That's what this constitutional republic is all about. That's what the first 10 amendments are all about,' he said.

He then added, 'I don't perceive Idaho as anti-gay. I perceive it as pro-marriage in the traditional sense.'

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