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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

‘Add The Words’ bill rejected on party-line vote

Sen. Edgar Malepeai presents the 'Add The Words' bill on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)
Sen. Edgar Malepeai presents the 'Add The Words' bill on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)

His voice breaking, Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, told the Senate State Affairs Committee that the "Add The Words" bill would amend the Idaho Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. "The act allows the commission to address issues in employment, housing, education and public accommodations. This legislation does not create a new protected class, since all people have a sexual orientation and gender identity," he said.

Malepeai said, "It insures that all Idahoans are free to hold jobs and rent apartments regardless of whether they are straight or gay. So the question before us today with this legislation is whether or not it is the policy of the state of Idaho to allow discrimination against our gay family members, coworkers and friends." Malepeai said the senate committee has never considered "this very simple and elegant" version of the bill. "In my opinion it would be profoundly disrespectful not to afford those tens of thousands of families affected by this legislation at least, at least the printing of the bill. Pardon me," he said, pausing with emotion. "We owe it to those who know and love their gay family members and friends ... to allow them to speak about the harm they see being done each day in Idaho without the voice of the state finally saying that discrimination is wrong."

But only the committee's two Democrats,  Sens. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Malepeai, voted in favor of Stennett's motion to print and introduce the bill; all other committee members voted no, and the measure was rejected.

There was a gasp from the crowd of more than 250. "That's Idaho," one person commented, while another called out, "What's it going to take?"

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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