BOISE – There were 25 arrests at Idaho’s state Capitol on Monday, as protesters continued to press without success for lawmakers to enact civil rights protections for gays.
The protesters – six of whom were arrested twice during the course of the day – blocked all entrances to the Legislature’s bill drafting office three times, with one holding a sign saying, “Open for Add the Words Bill Only.”
Wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Add the 4 Words Idaho,” they called for adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. That law prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on race, gender, religion and disability, but not on sexual orientation.
After nine years of refusing, Idaho lawmakers held a full hearing on the bill this year: three days of emotional testimony about the experiences of gay and transgender Idahoans, along with comments from the bill’s opponents. Then, the House State Affairs Committee killed the bill on a party-line vote, with the panel’s majority Republicans all voting against it. Opponents on the committee said they’d consider a compromise bill that includes religious freedom protections, but none has been introduced, and the Idaho legislative session is nearing its closing weeks.
It was the second time this session that protests over the civil rights bill led to arrests; on March 2, 23 protesters were arrested after they refused to leave the House and Senate chambers. Last year, more than 100 people were arrested calling unsuccessfully for a hearing on the bill.
Monday’s arrests happened quietly and without incident, said Lt. Brad Doty of the Idaho State Police. “They’re very calm and peaceful people,” he said. “We’re just getting them processed.”
The protesters were taken to the basement welcome room of the Capitol for processing, then to the Ada County Jail.