TWIN FALLS • Gay rights activist Cody Hafer cycled through a range of emotions Feb. 10 when the Senate State Affairs Committee killed legislation that would’ve added protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
“I was honestly heartbroken at first, and thenIslowly moved to being quite angry, and now I’m kind of just determined to keep fighting for the rest of the legislative session,” said Hafer, of Twin Falls, one of the leaders in the campaign known as Add the Words.
Despite the setback, activists haven’t slowed their efforts to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Gem State human rights protections.
Mistie Tolman, statewide Add the Words spokeswoman, said events such as silent protests will continue to be held two or three times a week in Boise until a bill is printed or the legislative session ends — whichever comes first.
A Feb. 16 end-around attempt by Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise — to add the words by amending an unrelated bill on prison contraband — failed in the Senate. Further action on the issue in the 2012 session is unlikely, but Magic Valley activists say they’ll keep campaigning anyway.
There will likely be an event in Twin Falls, but it hasn’t been planned yet, Hafer said Feb. 20.
Hafer, a Twin Falls High graduate, has been on the front lines of Add the Words. He served as the statewide coordinator for the Day of Action on Jan. 28. Hafer helped organize rallies, vigils and protests in 13 Idaho cities, including Twin Falls, where more than 50 people met in front of the Twin Falls County Courthouse to hold signs and drum up support from passers-by.
Twin Falls father-daughter duo Brad and Jenn Siegel were there that day, waving signs that read “Gay rights are human rights”and “Closets are for clothes.”
“It was encouraging to have many, many drivers honk in support,” Brad said. “I witnessed no unkind gestures or comments. The same cannot be said of our legislators, many of whom were unable to even have the courtesy to respond to constituents as to why they voted in the manner they did.”
In addition to Day of Action events, Magic Valley residents set up an info table in Burley recently to spread their message.
“The legislators need to realize this isn’t just about politics,” said James Tidmarsh, another of Twin Falls’ Add the Words leaders. “They’re playing with people’s lives. Something needs to be done.”
Tidmarsh spent a couple of winter Saturdays standing by the Perrine Bridge, holding up a big “Add the Words” sign.
“We feel this is way too important of an issue to back down and not keep fighting,” Tolman said. “The outpouring of public support on this issue is bigger than we’ve ever seen it. We feel like it’s moving at lightning speed and really slowly at the same time.”