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Eye On Boise

McKenzie: ‘It’s open dialogue that is important on issues like this’

At the close of the presentations this morning on amending the Idaho Human Rights Act, before opening it up to questions, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, told the House and Senate State Affairs committees, “Sometimes these topics are undiscussable. So we appreciate the opportunity to broach the subject.”

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, As you know we grew up in the era of segregation… For me that’s a no-brainer, all that was going on was wrong.” But, he said, “I struggle … as I try and weigh my position on ‘Add the Words’ or other issues based on discrimination, I look to the law and I look to try and figure out the impact of that discrimination. So I want you to know that it is a struggle.” He asked Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson about “the facts of discrimination in our community,” saying, “Some of my issues also deal with protection, equal protection, of someone being assaulted – any person should have protection, no matter what.”

Masterson responded, “I really don’t have a lot of data.” He said, “I’ve received complaints from as far away as Boston, from a mother who says, ‘My son’s jaw was broken, you’re not doing anything about it.’ It turned out it hadn’t been reported to the police. … It underscores the under-reporting issue we have.” Masterson said to him, the effectiveness of a new law like Boise’s anti-discrimination ordinance isn’t necessarily measures through the number of complaints. Instead, it’s through fewer complaints and the message getting out that discrimination won’t be tolerated.  He stressed the “importance of a message that you as elected officials send to your constituents and to all Idahoans about what you value in terms of justice and trust.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, thanked the presenters, and said, “If we’re going to cope with this problem in this country, I think we need to be better educated. We need to learn from one another, we need to appreciate one another.” He said, “I think discrimination is much more a matter of the heart than it is of statute. I think we’ve gone a long way for that.” Buckner-Webb responded, “Thank you for these incremental steps.”

Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, Senate state affairs chairman, said, “I understand the passions that people have on this issue. … I appreciate the respect for the process, the respect for the committee. … It’s open dialogue that is important on issues like this.” Buckner-Webb said, “Thank you – we’ll be inviting you for more.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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