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Lewiston becomes 9th Idaho city to pass anti-discrimination ordinance

Lewiston has become the 9th Idaho city to pass an ordinance banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, the Lewiston Tribune reports today. The ordinance also bans discrimination based on familial status; it passed on a 5-2 vote of the Lewiston City Council, after an hour and a half of testimony from a standing-room-only crowd.

Lewiston Tribune reporter Joel Mills reports that the public testimony ran about 2-1 in favor of the ordinance, which includes exemptions for religious entities; his full report is online here. Lewiston joins Boise, Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Victor and Sandpoint; Sandpoint was the first, passing its ordinance in December of 2011. Idaho lawmakers have refused to grant a hearing on a bill to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act for nearly a decade, to ban discrimination on those bases; that's prompted cities to act on their own to pass ordinances protecting their residents.

Victor becomes 8th Idaho city to ban discrimination against gays

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: VICTOR, Idaho (AP) — A small eastern Idaho town near the border with Wyoming has passed an ordinance banning discrimination against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Boise State Public Radio reports in a story on Thursday that Victor passed the law that offers employment, housing and public accommodation protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Mayor Zach Smith says the city council unanimously approved the measure. About 2,000 people live in Victor, many making a living by working in nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Smith says the ordinance takes effect Monday. Victor becomes the eighth Idaho city to approve a non-discrimination ordinance.

You can see Boise State Public Radio’s full report here.

Discrimination lawsuit filed after woman fired for DUI, when male supervisor kept job after his DUI

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A southeast Idaho woman has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Bonneville County. The Post Register reports (http://www.postregister.com/node/55767) that Kendalee Rydalch filed the lawsuit May 20 and is seeking $1 million. The lawsuit says Rydalch was fired from her job as a juvenile probation officer with the county in February 2013. The lawsuit says the firing came six days after she was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. The lawsuit contends that a male supervisor in 2007 was found guilty of driving under the influence while on duty but kept his job. Bonneville County Commissioner Roger Christensen says the county hasn't yet seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

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.”

Former Gov. Batt endorses expanding Idaho Human Rights Act that he authored, to ban discrmination against gays

Advocates of extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians are getting a big boost from the author of the Idaho Human Rights Act, former Republican Gov. Phil Batt, reports Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman. Popkey writes that on Tuesday, as Batt, 86, became the first recipient of the Idaho Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award in Caldwell, the popular former governor endorsed the “Add the Words ” campaign to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin and disability.

“A homosexual who can’t rent a room or get a job because of his orientation doesn’t make any sense to anybody,” Batt said. “Why some of the politicians are not more sensitive than that — more sensible, I should say than that — beats me.” The former governor also said Idaho lawmakers’ refusal to amend the Human Rights Act in the 2013 session “accomplished absolutely nothing…except to be made to look like fools.” Popkey’s full report is online here; he notes that Batt’s comments were first reported in Friday’s Lewiston Tribune by editorial page editor Marty Trillhaase. Popkey writes that he checked in with Batt today, who told him, “It’s just something that needs to be said.”

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.

Otter on GOP resolution: Honor local control

Asked about the Idaho GOP Central Committee’s new resolution calling on the Legislature to overturn local anti-discrimination ordinances, like those six Idaho cities have passed to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, Gov. Butch Otter said today that the resolution runs counter to his views on local control. “I think, even though the cities and counties are creatures of the state, the state has always recognized the value of local control, local decision-making, and these folks having a responsibility to establish for themselves the character of their community,” Otter said. “Although I understand some of the reasoning behind that effort, I really think that the overriding value of local folks making local decisions about local policies is much more valuable than us directing folks from Boise.”

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.

Idaho Falls looking at anti-discrimination ordinance, could be 7th city to enact…

Idaho Falls is considering enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance to cover sexual orientation and gender identity; if it does, it'd be the seventh Idaho city to enact protections from discrimination that state lawmakers have repeatedly refused to add to the Idaho Human Rights Act. The Idaho Falls Post Register reports the city council is working on a draft ordinance and collecting public comment on the issue. Meanwhile, the Idaho Republican Party's central committee will consider two proposed resolutions this weekend calling for the state to invalidate all such local ordinances. Click below for a full report from the Associated Press.

Catching up…

After a week away, it’s time to catch up. Here’s some of the news from the past week while I was gone:

* Both Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello passed city ordinances to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Coeur d’Alene City Council’s 5-1 vote came late Tuesday night; the Pocatello City Council’s 4-2 vote came early Friday morning. That marks the fifth and sixth Idaho cities, including Boise, to pass such ordinances, after the state Legislature refused for seven straight years to enact such protections statewide.

* First District Congressman Raul Labrador dropped out of an eight-member bipartisan group working toward compromise immigration reform legislation in the House, and said he’ll oppose the group’s legislation, due to differences over how to pay for immigrants’ health care. “We just have a different philosophy,” Labrador told reporters. “The Democratic Party believes that health insurance is a social responsibility of the nation. I believe that health insurance is an individual responsibility. And that’s a really hard philosophy to mesh.” You can read more here. Today, the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho plans a rally at Meridian City Hall to protest Labrador’s move.

* The family of Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier from Hailey captured four years ago in Afghanistan and still held as a prisoner of war, received a letter from their son after working with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The family said it was “greatly relieved and encouraged by this letter;” read the full story here from the Associated Press.

* Idaho’s latest tax revenue figures, for the month of May, came in 2.4 percent below forecast, but that followed a big surplus in April, the state’s biggest month for tax revenue, bringing the state to 3 percent above forecast for the fiscal year to date; Idaho’s fiscal year ends June 30. You can see the general fund revenue report here.

Denver Gay Couple Files Complain

Dave Mullins, right, sits for a portrait with his husband Charlie Craig, in Denver, Thursday. The gay couple is pursuing a discrimination complaint against a Colorado bakery, saying the business refused them a wedding cake for a family reception in Colorado after they were married in a Massachusetts ceremony, and alleging that the owners have a history of turning away same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)'

Question: Do you think someone in Coeur d'Alene will test the new antidiscrimination ordinance this year?

Kootenai sheriff mum after meeting with Boy Scouts group; CdA considers anti-discrimination ordinance

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — The CEO of the Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America says he met with a northern Idaho sheriff after the sheriff said he planned to drop his office's charter of a Boy Scout troop over the organization's decision to lift its ban on openly gay Scouts. Last week, Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said it would be inappropriate for the sheriff's office to sponsor an organization that promotes a lifestyle that violates Idaho's sodomy law. Inland Northwest Council CEO Tim McCandless told the Coeur d'Alene Press (http://bit.ly/11yfDBI ) that he met with Wolfinger on Tuesday and gave him more information about the policy change. McCandless said Wolfinger did not indicate if the meeting changed his mind. Sheriff's Lt. Stu Miller said Wolfinger had no further comment.

Ironically, that news item emerged the same day that a Coeur d'Alene city committee voted 2-1 in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance covering sexual orientation and gender identity, modeled after Boise's ordinance; the measure now moves to the full City Council for consideration. The council is scheduled to take up the ordinance at its June 4 meeting. 

Latah GOP Censures Chair For Vote

The Latah County Republican Party has voted to censure its chairman for his vote as a Moscow city councilor supporting an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that a small assembly of county Republican precinct committee members voted 7-6 earlier this month to censure Walter Steed for his city council vote. Committee member Gresham Bouma says the ordinance will penalize business owners for their personal beliefs when it comes to hiring/AP via Eye on Boise. More here.

Thoughts?

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.

Panelist: ‘Discrimination is bad for business - period’

A large crowd has turned out today for a panel discussion on Idaho’s Human Rights Act and its possible amendment to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Gathered in the Capitol Auditorium, the crowd is hearing from a panel moderated by David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

“Until all of us are free, none of us are free,” said the Rev. Marci Glass, pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church; she said her support for non-discrimination is deeply rooted in scripture and her Christian beliefs. Clark Krause, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, said, “Discrimination is bad for business – period.”

John Reuter, former Sandpoint City Council president, said, “I felt a special obligation as a white, straight male Republican to say, hey … look, there are people who can’t speak.” Reuter spearheaded Sandpoint’s non-discrimination ordinance for sexual orientation and gender identity; since that was adopted last year, Boise and Ketchum have followed suit, and other Idaho cities are considering ordinances. But the state Legislature has rejected such legislation for the past six years.

“I think action is possible in Idaho, and it’s going to be bipartisan if it happens in Idaho,” Reuter said, “and I think it will happen.” He said when he was on the Sandpoint council, it was divided between Republicans and Democrats, though officially nonpartisan. “We came together to say this is the right thing for all of our citizens,” he said, “for people to have a right to keep a job … without being discriminated against for something that has nothing to do with their job performance, and is an innate part of who they are.”

Other panelists include Boise City Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan, Bardenay restaurant owner Kevin Settles, and Idaho Human Rights Commission Director Pam Parks, who shared the history of the Idaho Human Rights Act – enacted at the behest of then-Sen. Phil Batt, who later served as Idaho’s governor. The act currently bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin or disability in employment, housing and public accommodations. Said Adler, “Everybody is protected - unless you’re not.”

Settles said, “My restaurants are big places, they need to be busy. It takes a lot of people for us to turn a profit, it takes a lot of employees.” He said, “Exclusive restaurants generally don’t survive.”

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 Bans Sex Orientation Bias

Sandpoint city attorney Scot Campbell walked along downtown Sandpoint on Wednesday. He drafted Sandpoint's new non-discrimination ordinance for sexual orientation and gender identity. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister wasn’t expecting it when a woman in her 60s walked up to her at a community event, 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 citywide 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 within the city limits of Sandpoint/Betsy Z. Russell, SR. More here.

Question: Are you surprised that Sandpoint was the first city in Idaho that has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

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.

Conn. mayor blasted for ‘taco’ quip

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The mayor of a working-class city roiled by allegations of police discrimination against Hispanics faced scathing criticism Wednesday from officials including the governor for saying he “might have tacos” as a way to do something for the community.

The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo brought unwanted attention to the leadership of the New Haven suburb, where four police officers were arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice. The mayor was also criticized for his recent reappointment of police Chief Leonard Gallo, who was apparently referred to in the indictment as a co-conspirator.

The four officers are accused of waging a campaign of harassment against Latino residents and businesses, including assaulting people while they were handcuffed and intimidating people who tried to investigate or report misconduct allegations. All four have pleaded not guilty.

The taco comment came as Maturo, a Republican, was being interviewed late Tuesday by a reporter from New York's WPIX-TV, Mario Diaz, who asked, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Maturo's response: “I might have tacos when I go home; I'm not quite sure yet.”

He initially defended his response and said it was being unfairly twisted. But he later apologized, saying he'd had a long day of interviews.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the comments are “repugnant.”

“They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he's going to do to repair the damage he's done. And he needs to do it today,” Malloy said.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, a native of Puerto Rico, said he was “disgusted” by Maturo's comment. East Haven Democratic Town Committee Chairman Gene Ruocco called for Maturo's resignation.

The comment “goes to the root of the racial profiling allegations here in East Haven,” Ruocco said in a statement. “Everyone knows the seriousness of this matter and for him, as the leader of our community, to say something so utterly insensitive is a complete disgrace.”

East Haven resident Marcia Chacon said she and other Latinos in her community were offended by Maturo's comment.

“This is an insult against us,” she said. “I thought 'Wow, here we are in East Haven, and this is the person who is supposed to help us.'”

Racial profiling complaints surged in recent years in East Haven, a predominantly white suburb on Long Island Sound where the Hispanic population more than doubled in size over a decade to 10.3 percent of its 28,000 people. Last month, a lengthy civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded there was a pattern of biased policing in East Haven, where only one of the roughly 50 police officers speaks Spanish.

Neighboring New Haven, in contrast, has drawn national attention for its sympathetic approach to immigrants, including becoming the first city in the nation to issue municipal identification cards for all residents — including illegal immigrants — to provide services such as banking and using the library.

The indictment of the East Haven police officers says a leader in the police department, described only as co-conspirator 1, blocked efforts by the police commission to investigate misconduct allegations. That refers to Chief Leonard Gallo, according to his attorney, Jon Einhorn, who denied that Gallo blocked the investigation and said it was unfair for him to be mentioned when he is not charged.

The allegations show federal authorities are concerned not just with the actions of the four police officers but also with the wider culture, said Jeffrey Meyer, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a former federal prosecutor.

“The significance of the allegations against co-conspirator 1 go to the overall tolerance and permissiveness of this police department with respect to the abuses committed by the indicted officers,” Meyer said.

The investigation was continuing, but experts said federal authorities sometimes don't charge a person named as a co-conspirator.

“He's probably losing some sleep,” Stan Twardy, a defense attorney and former U.S. attorney for Connecticut, said of Gallo. “The uncertainty of it is going to be uncomfortable for him.”

Maturo is a lifelong East Haven resident and Republican who was mayor from 1997 to 2007 and re-elected again in the fall.

After taking office Nov. 19, he reinstated Gallo as police chief. Gallo had been on paid administrative leave since federal authorities began investigating in 2010.

“I stand behind the police department,” Maturo said Tuesday. “We have a great police department.”

The Rev. James Manship, a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven who has advocated for East Haven's Latinos, said he was incredulous that Gallo was welcomed back.

“I remain absolutely dumbfounded on how the mayor would reinstate Chief Gallo, who was at the helm of the police department when the culture and these things were happening,” said Manship, who was arrested in 2009 while videotaping East Haven police officers to document harassment complaints as officers removed license plates from the wall of a Hispanic couple's store.

Maturo released a statement Wednesday to express his “sincerest apologies” to East Haven and its Latino residents and business owners for the taco comment, asking residents to “have faith in me and our community as we address the challenges arising out of the past days' events.”

“Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation,” he said. “I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.”

Ruling: Keep Judges Out Of Churches

Religious workers can't sue for job discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, saying for the first time that churches — not courts — are the best judges of whether clergy and other religious employees should be fired or hired. But the high court tempered its decision bolstering the constitutional separation of church and state by refusing to give a detailed description of what constitutes a religious employee, which left an untold number of workers at churches, synagogues and other religious organizations still in limbo over whether government antidiscrimination laws protect them in job bias disputes. It was, nevertheless, the first time the high court has acknowledged the existence of a so-called “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws — a doctrine developed in lower court rulings/Associated Press. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Do you agree/disagree with ruling?

BW: Idaho Human Rights Stand Pathetic

State leaders have made it clear they’re not interested in extending anti-discrimination protections to the gay and lesbian community. At the start of 2009, I watched members of the Senate State Affairs Committee barely give Sen. Nicole LeFavour (pictured, via Wikipedia) the courtesy of their attention before quickly voting against printing her bill to amend the Idaho Human Rights Act to include LGBT protections in the workplace, education and housing. A week before LeFavour was shot down by her fellow senators, the Idaho Human Rights Commission — an organization tasked specifically with “ensuring that all people within the state are treated with dignity and respect”—voted against supporting LeFavour’s proposed legislation/Rachael Daigle, Boise Weekly. More here.

Question: Should Idaho extend human rights protections to the gay and lesbian community?

The history of military discrimination…

Good morning, Netizens…


Cartoonist David Horsey hit the nail on the head in today’s cartoon. In the 1940’s the minds of America refused to admit that persons of color could fly planes. Once the Tuskegee Airmen took to the air, no one could deny them their rightful place in history. You can read their entire history at http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org/ but one has only to ask where are the members of Congress who once said black pilots could never fly?


In the 1980’s the big controversy of the time was whether women could serve in the military. Today we have women deployed around the world, including some high-ranking officers in the Pentagon. Women, however, still cannot serve in submarines, the logic being includes the fact that doses of radiation from nuclear submarine reactors can result in infertility, since women do not continually produce eggs as men do with sperm. Also, the finite amount of space available on submarines limits the ability to offer separate berths and lavatories for females. Of course, all one has to do to further exploit this is ask what about male infertility on nuclear submarines?


However, in my opinion, no military policy is so flawed as Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654 the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell policy about gays and lesbians in the military.

In a time of war, this is just more of the same narrow-minded arrogant and discriminatory mindset that has sought, throughout history, to set policies based upon discrimination, rather than fact.

Dave

Lawmakers and governor approve bill to make breastfeeding in public a civil right….

Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed into law House Bill 1596, which declares that the right of a mother to breastfeed her child in public places is a civil right protected by Washington’s anti-discrimination law.

“This new law will eliminate one more obstacle that women are faced with day in and day out,” said Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood. It takes effect in 90 days.

Washington is already one of at least 25 states that have passed laws explicitly declaring that breastfeeding or expressing breast milk does not constitute indecent exposure. In a move intended to prod businesses into making more accomodations for breastfeeding moms, the state also has a law allowing employers to say they’re “infant-friendly” if they allow flexible work schedules and clean facilities for moms.

The new law protects against discrimination by declaring that women can breastfeed a child “in any place of public resort, accomodation, assemblage or amusement.” That includes restaurants, hotels, motels, stores, malls, theaters, concert halls, parks, fairs, libraries, schools, hospitals and government offices.

Complaints would be investigated by the state Human Rights Commission. Based on results involving similar laws in Vermont and Hawaii, the commission estimates that it will field 4-5 complaints a year. It says that Washington has a high percentage of breastfeeding moms, particularly among immigrants and low-income women.

In House and Senate hearings, no one testified against the bill. But proponents said that women continue to be asked to leave public places while breastfeeding. Such hassles, they said, may contribute to a sharp dropoff in breastfeeding at 6 weeks and 6 months.