Four “Add the Words” protesters, their hands covering their mouths and some holding photocopied pictures of two gay Idaho teens who committed suicide, have been standing silently in the center of the first-floor rotunda of the Capitol today. Former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour said she and two others did the same last night, and were arrested shortly before midnight when the building closed and they wouldn’t leave. She said the protesters didn’t realize the building would close. “Frankly, I brought my toothbrush – we were going to stay the night,” she said.
This morning, while LeFavour stood near the four protesters, a counter-protester angrily confronted her and began shouting louder and louder in her face; a uniformed Idaho State police officer soon beckoned him away. “I'm really grateful,” LeFavour said. “They're here to keep everybody safe.”
LeFavour said she thought last night was the fifth time she’s been arrested this year in protests pushing for civil rights protections for gays. Each charge, mostly for trespassing, can carry a $1,000 fine. “How do you put a price on something like this?” asked LeFavour, who was Idaho’s first openly gay state legislator. “We’re just waiting for the process to start,” she said. “Is it going to be productive to drag it into next session?”
Legislation to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act’s anti-discrimination protections has been proposed each year for the past eight years, but has never gotten a full committee hearing.
There have been other “Add the Words” protests this week as well, including brief “flash mobs” of people singing protest songs in Statehouse hallways; protesters reading their stories in the Statehouse rotunda; and silent vigils by protesters near Statehouse doorways. On Tuesday morning, 23 protesters were arrested after they blocked every entrance to Gov. Butch Otter’s office, keeping staffers and the governor himself from starting work in their offices that day until the protesters were removed. With the three additional arrests last night, that brings the total number of arrests this session in “Add the Words” protests to nearly 150.