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Posts tagged: sexual orientation

Big ‘Add the Words’ rally set for Saturday on the Statehouse steps

There’s a big “Add the Words” rally scheduled on the state Capitol steps this Saturday at 1 p.m., to push to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the types of discrimination banned under the Idaho Human Rights Act. “Across the state, people are growing restless and frustrated,” said organizer Mistie Tolman. “Harm is done when lawmakers fail to say in law that cruelty is wrong.  For eight years now we’ve been asking for the dignity of a public hearing, an open discussion, and for them to hear us.”

Idaho lawmakers have rejected legislation each year for the past eight years to make that change to the state’s Human Rights Act, which now bans discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age or disability, in employment, housing or public accommodations. At least seven Idaho cities, including Sandpoint, Boise, Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Pocatello and Idaho Falls, have now enacted their own local bans. Last June, the Idaho Republican Party state central committee passed a resolution calling on the Legislature to pass a law invalidating such local ordinances.

Under state law, Idahoans can legally be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or denied service in a restaurant solely because they’re gay. “People lose their jobs, their apartments, and live in fear each day, said Lisa Perry, an Add the Words organizer. “We ask the public to bundle up, rain or shine, bring umbrellas, and show our legislature this is wrong, and that we stand with our LGBT family and friends.”

The rally will feature performances by Curtis Stigers and the Common Ground Community Chorus, organizers said, along with speakers from across the state and bill sponsors Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb and Rep. Grant Burgoyne, both D-Boise. A new group called the Interfaith Equality Coalition, comprised of 14 Boise-area churches and religious institutions including Methodists, Presbyterians, Jews, Mennonites and more, will participate in the rally. The Rev. Dana Worsnop, minister at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said, “We want it known that there are many people of deep religious conviction who support LGBT rights.”

Crapo, Risch say anti-discrimination laws best left to states

When the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 last week in favor of legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, 10 Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill, but Idaho’s two senators both voted against it. “Number one, this is a state’s rights issue,” Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said. “Number two, this bill made insufficient provisions for employers who have First Amendment constitutional protections to exercise their religious beliefs.”

The bill, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, included an exemption for religious organizations. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., proposed an amendment to sharply expand that exemption to include a wide array of entities with some religious affiliation, but it was voted down, 55-43. Toomey still voted in favor of the bill, however.

Sen. Mike Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, said, “Sen. Crapo voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, on the basis that he has long been opposed to the expansion of the federal government’s power to handle such matters when states have a better handle on how to rightfully handle these issues, just as several local municipalities in Idaho have begun to do.”

Earlier in the week, Crapo said he supports allowing local ordinances to ban such discrimination, which conflicts with a resolution passed by the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee over the summer urging the state Legislature to overturn local anti-discrimination ordinances in seven Idaho cities.

“Moreover, a sweeping federal statute would not offer proper protections for religious liberties,” Nothern said. “Sen. Crapo believes all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity. … Workers should be hired and their employment maintained on the basis of their skills, abilities and how they accomplish their appointed tasks.”

The bill may not get a vote in the House, where Speaker John Boehner opposes it; you can read my full column here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

Idaho Falls bans housing, employment discrimination against gays

Idaho Falls has become the seventh city in Idaho to enact a local ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The City Council approved the new ordinance last night around midnight, after a meeting in which more than 45 people testified and more than 100 attended, the Post Register and Boise State Public Radio report; you can see BSPR’s full report here. The cities took action after the Idaho Legislature rebuffed years of attempts to expand Idaho’s Human Rights Act to cover such discrimination.

Unlike ordinances passed earlier in six other Idaho cities, Idaho Falls’ new provision doesn’t cover discrimination in public accommodations, though it does bar job and housing discrimination. Sandpoint was the first Idaho city to enact a local anti-discrimination ordinance covering sexual orientation and gender identity in December of 2011; it was followed by Boise, Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello.

Idaho GOP wants city non-discrimination ordinances voided

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Idaho Republican Party leaders are calling on the state Legislature to invalidate local city ordinances that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation - like the one Coeur d’Alene passed after an emotional community debate just two weeks ago.  Six Idaho cities have passed such non-discrimination ordinances in the past year and a half, and a seventh, Idaho Falls, is looking into one now.

The party central committee's resolution isn't binding on the Legislature, which is 81 percent Republican. “It’s a way for the people to make their expressions known to the Legislature,” said Idaho Republican Chairman Barry Peterson. “We let ‘em know that this is the way that the majority of the party feels.” Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem countered, “The Republican Party itself appears to be somewhat fractured, so I’m not assuming that it would get full Republican support. … I would assume that there would certainly be some that would recognize the local rights.” Coeur d’Alene’s city council passed the ordinance on a 5-1 vote.

Cornel Rasor, a former Bonner County commissioner and chairman of the Idaho GOP’s resolutions committee, said, “I’d hire a gay guy if I thought he was a good worker. But if he comes into work in a tutu … he’s not producing what I want in my office.” Rasor presented the resolution on behalf of a constituent in Bonner County;  another similar one was proposed by Idaho County’s GOP central committee, and the two were combined into one. It was approved with little debate at the central committee’s summer meeting over the weekend in McCall.

Coeur d’Alene latest Idaho city to consider non-discrimination ordinance for sexual orientation

Coeur d’Alene soon may join a growing number of Idaho cities to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation – a reaction to the Legislature’s steadfast refusal to add such protections to state law, reports Spokesman-Review reporter Scott Maben. City Councilman Mike Kennedy is drafting an ordinance modeled after Boise’s; it would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. “I think it’s needed, I think it’s overdue, and it’s simple equal rights,” Kennedy said; you can read Maben’s full report here at spokesman.com.

The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations asked the Coeur d’Alene Council to add the language to the city code, Kennedy said. In a Feb. 4 letter to the mayor and City Council, the Task Force wrote, “The City of Coeur d’Alene has the opportunity to move forward in advancing the principles we have all promoted for decades. We urge you to stand on the broad shoulders of those who have gone before you in confirming once again the dignity and rights of all our residents and share in this noble legacy.”

The Legislature has spurned attempts each of the past seven years to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights Act, which now bans discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age or disability. Most years lawmakers refused to even allow the bill to be introduced. “The Legislature didn’t act again this year on it, and so it makes sense to do it now and help push the momentum toward a statewide law,” Kennedy said. He plans to bring the ordinance before the City Council in May. Sandpoint, Boise, Moscow and Ketchum already have enacted such ordinances; Pocatello rejected one last week, but plans to consider a modified version.

Divided Pocatello City Council rejects non-discrimination ordinance, but new version is in the works

A divided Pocatello City Council has defeated a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, with Mayor Brian Blad casting the tie-breaking vote at a tense, packed meeting last night, the Idaho State Journal reports. The council had split 3-3 on the ordinance to ban such discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations.

However, the issue’s not dead; the Journal reports that Blad, before he cast his “no” vote, said, “I believe this has divided this community in half. I believe we can draft an ordinance that most people can accept.” Blad ordered a council work session for May 9 to work on a modified ordinance to be introduced at the June 6 council meeting. “My main goal is to bring the community together and it's split right now,” Blad said; see the Journal’s full report here.

The Pocatello ordinance was modeled after measures already adopted in the past year in Sandpoint, Boise and Moscow, after the Idaho Legislature repeatedly refused to consider amending the Idaho Human Rights Act to outlaw such discrimination statewide.

Pocatello council to vote tonight on non-discrimination ordinance, latest Idaho city to take up issue

The Pocatello City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on an ordinance to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, reports Boise State Public Radio, and the vote is expected to be close. Other Idaho cities, including Sandpoint, Boise and Moscow, already have adopted such ordinances, after the Idaho Legislature refused for more than half the past decade to consider amending the Idaho Human Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the types of discrimination that are illegal. BSPR reports that the Pocatello council heard emotional testimony on the proposed ordinance on April 4, with more than 50 people speaking out in favor of it, in advance of tonight's vote; you can read their full report here.

Moscow passes non-discrimination ordinance

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The Moscow City Council has passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that makes it illegal to make housing and employment decisions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The council passed the ordinance Monday amid protests by Mayor Nancy Chaney and some residents who say they were not given a chance to comment on the proposal. Councilman Dan Cascallen says the panel had received volumes of emails and felt it had taken enough public opinion. Chaney says she believes the ordinance warranted discussion from all sides. She says she believes the council's action will put a blight on the city. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/12apLRM ) the ordinance passed unanimously. Other Idaho cities that already have passed such non-discrimination ordinances include Sandpoint, Boise, and Hailey; the state Legislature has refused to consider a statewide non-discrimination ban for the past six years.

Ketchum becomes third Idaho city to ban discrimination for sexual orientation

Ketchum’s city council voted unanimously this week to enact protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, Boise State Public Radio reports. The city’s move follows the enactment of similar ordinances this year in Sandpoint and Boise – and the state Legislature’s refusal, for six straight years, to consider the “Add the Words” bill to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act, to prohibit such discrimination statewide. You can read Boise State Public Radio’s full post here, and the Idaho Mountain Express report here; Pride Foundation has a report here.

Twin Falls, Lewiston ban city workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Add Twin Falls and Lewiston to the list of Idaho cities to ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation. City councils in both cities voted Monday night for language adding sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policies. The Lewiston City Council voted 5-2 to outlaw discrimination in hiring of city jobs. Leaders in Twin Falls voted 5-2 to add sexual orientation to the anti-harassment and discrimination policy for city employees. Lewiston and Twin Falls now join Boise, Sandpoint, Moscow and Caldwell in taking the official step to prohibit discrimination on hiring for city jobs based on a person's sexual preference or orientation. In addition, Sandpoint and Boise have banned such discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations citywide, and Pocatello is considering such an ordinance. The votes also come nearly a year after state lawmakers rejected a bill for a statewide ban on workplace and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

With unanimous council vote, Boise bans job, housing discrimination against gays

Boise has become Idaho's second city to enact an ordinance banning discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity; the Boise City Council last night voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance, a move that was followed by a standing ovation in a packed Capitol Auditorium. You can see a full report here from KBOI2 News.

Sandpoint last year became the first Idaho city to enact such an ordinance; Pocatello has one in the works. It's an issue the Idaho Legislature has repeatedly refused to consider, despite an outpouring of support across the state last year for the “Add the Words” campaign, which called for adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. That's the law that currently makes it illegal to fire someone, evict them or deny them service in a restaurant on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age or disability. The state legislation has been rejected for six straight years; this year's push included well-attended rallies across the state, including one that drew more than a thousand people to the state Capitol.

Boise's ordinance takes effect Jan. 1; it exempts churches and private organizations like the Boy Scouts.

Boiseans pack five-hour hearing to support anti-discrimination ordinance

Hundreds of Boiseans turned out for a five-hour public hearing last night, with nearly all in favor of a proposed city ordinance to ban discrimination in housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Citizens shared emotional stories of living in fear of losing their jobs if employers found out they were gay; business leaders said the ordinance will help the city attract employers. You can read the Boise Weekly's account here, and the Idaho Statesman's report here; and see KTVB-TV's report here and KBOI2 News' report here.

For some background, here's a link to my Aug. 5 story on how Idaho's cities are moving to ban such discrimination, after the the state Legislature repeatedly refused to consider legislation for a statewide ban. Boise's City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance Dec. 4.

Sandpoint is first Idaho city to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation; others lining up

Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister wasn't expecting it when a woman in her 60s walked up to her at a community function, hugged her and started crying. “She said, 'I want you to know that because of what you did, for the first time in all our lives I can take my partner to a Christmas party without fear of being fired,'” McAlister recalled.

This was after McAlister helped push through a new city-wide non-discrimination ordinance in Sandpoint barring discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Idaho, it's still legal to fire someone because they're gay, or to evict them from their home, or deny them service in a restaurant. But it's no longer legal in Sandpoint.

“When it passed, there was a round of applause from the audience,” said Sandpoint Mayor Marsha Ogilvie, who added that she was surprised to learn that Sandpoint was the first Idaho city to enact such a law. Sandpoint's seen no opposition to its ordinance, which passed unanimously. Pocatello is now drafting a similar ordinance; its city council could take a vote on it as soon as this fall; and Boise is now looking into an ordinance. Said McAlister, “If tiny little Sandpoint can do this, anybody can do it. I'm not sure what's stopping us.”

Idaho appears to be in the early stages of a process that's already happened in neighboring states. In Oregon, a dozen cities or counties, including Portland, Salem, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene and more, had passed local non-discrimination ordinances regarding sexual orientation before a statewide non-discrimination law was enacted in 2007. In Washington, local laws also were passed in a dozen cities and counties before a statewide law passed in 2006. Spokane's local ordinance passed in 1999; Seattle's passed back in the 1970s. In Utah, 15 cities or counties have now enacted non-discrimination ordinances for sexual orientation, including Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, which did so with the strong support of the Mormon church, the state's dominant religious organization.

But Utah hasn't yet passed a state law, despite repeated attempts in the Legislature. And in Washington, the process was a long one - the bill there was introduced every year for 29 years before it finally passed. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and my sidebar here on how in neighboring states, employers have led the push to enact such laws.

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About this blog

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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