In a recent op-ed, Senator Brent Hill argued against adding the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to Idaho Human Rights codes, unless people can be exempted from human rights for religious reasons. He said, “The only viable solution is a balanced approach,” and we should be “seeking fairness rather than unilateral advantage.”
With language like “balanced approach” and “fairness”—Senator Hill joins a long line of legislators who have kept similar bills from the floor for over nine years. He has forgotten how long we have left friends in danger because the legislators refuse to see their lives as worthy of protection. We question how “fair” it is for the political party with complete control of Idaho politics to hold a group facing daily discrimination hostage to compromise. Currently the GOP has the only “unilateral advantage,” Hill doesn’t want compromise, he offers legislative extortion of people without power and intentionally left vulnerable to oppression by the State of Idaho.
Hill continues to impose his views on Idahoans who are gay, lesbian or transgender. He ignores the voices of faith leaders in Idaho whose faith compels us to work for safety and inclusion in the public sphere. As the legislature continues through its 2019 session, 67 percent of Idahoans believe it should be against the law to discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian or transgender. Senator Hill even admits that these people are in real danger and still recommends we do nothing. Hill refuses to Add the Words.
A religious exemption from human rights codes is not compromise. Telling conservative Christians they don’t have to obey state law and can freely discriminate against people is exempting them from the laws of our land. Add the Words is not about how people behave in religious settings. It is about how they behave in society. You are free to practice your religion as exclusively as you want in your worship, but in the public sphere, discrimination must not be codified into law.
Our faiths compel us to seek protections for our LGBTQIA+ siblings. We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people and we seek justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Jesus teaches, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-27) Add the words embodies all of these teachings, and more.
People of faith can disagree about human sexuality, but people opposed to adding the words are choosing to privilege a few verses of scripture over the thrust of the entire scripture, which insists, no less than 36 times, “You shall not oppress the stranger”.
Our faith compels us to support Sen. Maryanne Jordan’s Add the Words bill. And while we are willing to accept Senator Hill’s invitation to conversation, the only fairness and balance we will entertain is the full protection of the law for the LGBT community.