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Human rights bill backers ‘astounded,’ say, ‘This is 2012, it’s time’

More than 150 people signed in for this morning's “Add The Words” print hearing, at which the Senate State Affairs Committee, on a straight party-line vote, refused to introduce legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho's Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of race, religion and disability. People continued signing in through the hearing and for at least 20 minutes more after it ended; all supported the bill. More than 250 came to the hearing.

Judy Halverson, a United Methodist Women member from Boise who was among those attending the hearing, called the decision “just very disappointing, not even to be allowed to be heard, have it printed so there could be testimony. I'm just astounded,” she said. “This is 2012. It's time, it is time.”

Tyler Earle, a 19-year-old from Boise who is gay, said, “It is beyond time for this. … We have evolved so much past this aggression and hate and prejudice. It's mind-boggling. I can't believe this.”

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, an openly gay state lawmaker, said, “I was completely astounded by the party-line vote, because some of those people who voted 'no' have told me repeatedly that they support this issue.” She said she's talked with lots of lawmakers about it, and their views have changed. “We could pass this off the floor of both houses,” LeFavour said. “I don't think this state has seen such an outpouring of sentiment on this issue, even close, ever before. I think attitudes in here have changed with it.” LeFavour said, “In the end, this is politics, and to allow politics to intrude when you know something is right - or wrong - that is the most sinister sentiment about a legislative body you could make, especially when real people are getting hurt and people live in fear.”

Two weeks ago, more than a thousand people turned out for a rally at the state capitol in support of the “Add The Words” legislation, as similar rallies were held in cities across the state; hundreds of colorful sticky notes urging lawmakers to “add the words” were posted on glass doors inside the capitol, as part of a campaign this year in which backers of the legislation have said the notes are the only way they can get their point across to lawmakers, since lawmakers won't schedule a public hearing on the bill.

Lisa Perry of Boise, who wore an “ADD THE WORDS IDAHO” T-shirt to the hearing and was tearful afterward, said, “I have seen the discussion that happens … and it's upsetting that it will continue without this bill being passed.” She said the bill would “protect my friends, my family members, my neighbors, my co-workers from being discriminated against at work, at home … for who they are.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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