It’s 2019 in Idaho, and it still weighs on the minds of gay and transgender people that across most our state they can still legally be fired from jobs, evicted from apartments and refused goods or services in businesses for no other reason than that they’re gay or do not fit into familiar gender boxes.
Idaho’s existing human rights act and civil rights laws protect people from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, and disability but, after thirteen years of bipartisan attempts by countless organizations and individuals, Idaho legislative leaders have yet to allow inclusion of their own LGBTQ sons and daughters in Idaho’s Human Rights Act. This law is tested and effective. Full inclusion is the most just course because with that comes the power of the Human Rights Commission to enforce the law, to investigate and mediate so as to protect businesses as much as to protect individuals by resolving issues in cases of alleged discrimination.
Leaving gay and transgender people out of Idaho’s non-discrimination protections has created an environment that encourages violence. Over the decades, our community has recorded countless injuries, permanent disabilities, and even deaths. Too often these have gone unreported because the victims of violence were at risk of losing jobs, housing, contracts or business relationships simply because no non-discrimination law stood in place to protect them when making a report might reveal that they’re gay or have at any point in life undergone a gender transition.
Beyond the violence, the consequences of despair are all too evident in Idaho’s LGBTQ teen suicide rate. Growing up is hard enough but speak to the parents who have lost their gay or questioning children to despair and you learn that Idaho’s environment can be toxic and that it’s not enough just to pass anti-bullying legislation when young people know that, in their own state, they face the prospect of a lifetime of rejection and state permitted discrimination at the hands of future employers and businesses in the rural communities where they live.
When our state refuses to say that discrimination is wrong, it chooses to protect those who would deprive people of their livelihoods, safety, and freedoms, over creating a fair and predicable business environment where all can aspire to contribute to their communities and better themselves without fear of targeted rejection. Gay people should be safe accessing the same goods and services offered to all other members of our free society.
We encourage lawmakers to hear the urging of Republican Governor Phil Batt, Republican Senate Leader Bill Roden, and countless business leaders and former Republican elected officials who’ve said it’s time for a bill to “add the words.” We ask Senate Pro-Tem Brent Hill to lead and, at long last, shepherd a hearing and passage of a bill to fully include gay and transgender Idahoans in our state Human Rights Act. Lives are lost each passing year and we hope that the Speaker of the House and Senate ProTem Hill mark the gravity of each loss by not promising again that next year will be the year.
This year Idaho must finally promote freedom for those denied services and must finally create a safe and fair business environment by saying in law that allowing discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation is no longer the policy of the state of Idaho. It’s time for a bill that is complete and transparent and which does not include special carve-outs which set LGBT people apart as less than human or as undeserving of the full protection of law.
This reader comment was submitted by Nicole LeFavour and signed by:
Mama Dragons of the Magic Valley
Mama Dragons of Eastern Idaho
Magic Valley Pride
Magic Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Amaraji Maha Marai
Association for India’s Development, Boise Chapter
Boise First Congregational United Church of Christ
Boise First United Methodist Church/Cathedral of the Rockies
Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Boise Pride Festival
Center for Spiritual Living, Boise
The Community Center
College of Eastern Idaho Pride Club
Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel
Community of Christ
Hillview United Methodist Church
Humanists of the Palouse
Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship
The Interfaith Alliance of Idaho
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence
Idaho Transgender Healthcare Advocacy Coalition
Include Us Idaho Political Action Committee
Interfaith Equality Coalition of Idaho
King of Glory Lutheran Church
Latah County Human Rights Task Force
Liberating Spirit Metropolitan Community Church
Mama Dragons of Western Idaho
Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Idaho Falls
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii
Protect Idaho Kids
Queers and Allies Club of College of Western Idaho
Southern Idaho Humanist Alliance
Southern Idaho Pride
Southminster Presbyterian Church
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho
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