[Vision2020] Hope in Idaho: Idaho lawmakers set to introduce anti-discrimination bill for gays today
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Wed Jan 14 11:41:21 PST 2015
January 14, 2015 in Idaho
Idaho lawmakers set to introduce anti-discrimination bill for gays today
Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review
BOISE - In unprecedented move today, the Idaho Legislature's House Ways &
Means Committee - the leadership-controlled panel that rarely meets until
late in the session - has announced a meeting for 5 p.m. to consider
introducing the "Add the Words" bill, the measure to amend the Idaho Human
Rights Act to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to
ban discrimination on those bases.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, will present the bill, along
with Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise.
Once the bill's introduced, that would clear the way for a full hearing,
which House Speaker Scott Bedke and House State Affairs Chairman Tom
Loertscher said will be scheduled the week of Jan. 26.
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, Ways & Means chair, said the bill is "just the
four words," and only Rusche will speak on it at today's Ways & Means
meeting, which will be in the House Majority Caucus Room.
"It's time," said Bedke, R-Oakley. "We've consulted with Sen. (Brent) Hill,"
the Senate president pro-tem. "It was a collective feeling that we wanted to
have a hearing on a bill, not a hearing to introduce, and we can do that
easily." At this point, he said, the bill is the minority's bill. Proponents
have sought a hearing on the bill for the past nine legislative sessions
"I think that the legislative process needs to be open to all," Bedke said.
"All citizens have a right to petition . and come before the legislative
body, and we intend to facilitate that." He said, "I am not predicting any
outcome or guaranteeing any outcome, but the process is going to be open to
all. They'll come, they'll make their case, and I expect the committee to
vote their conscience. That's all we can expect from the system."
During last year's Idaho legislative session, more than 100 people were
arrested in repeated protests calling for a hearing on the bill. Wearing
black "Add the 4 Words" T-shirts, they blocked entrances to the Idaho Senate
until they were arrested and led away by police, standing silently with
their hands over their mouths, to signify that they hadn't been heard.
"We'll have a thorough hearing," Bedke promised. "If it takes multiple days,
that's fine. We want to hear everyone that wants to testify, on both sides.
I have full confidence that this will be done in a way that's befitting the
issue and befitting the legislative process."
In the years that the Legislature has resisted the anti-discrimination
legislation, nine Idaho cities, including Sandpoint, Coeur d'Alene and
Moscow and Lewiston, have passed local ordinances banning discrimination
The Idaho Human Rights Act currently bans discrimination in housing,
employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion,
sex, national origin or disability, but not sexual orientation. That means
in Idaho, outside the nine cities, it's currently legal for someone to be
fired, evicted or denied service at a business solely because they are gay.
A statewide poll of Idahoans released last week, taken in late December,
found that 67 percent of Idahoans favor banning discrimination against gays.
The early convening of the Ways & Means Committee appears to set a record
for the Idaho House, coming on just the session's third day. Bedke said,
"That's OK." He said, "It's an issue that we want to address early in the
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