Backers of the “Add the Words” legislation, to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act to ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, announced today that GOP leaders in both houses have informed them there will be no hearings on the bill this year. “Earlier this week, Speaker Bedke said that the Legislature is an ‘arena of ideas’ and that all ideas deserve consideration and an up or down vote,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said. “Without explanation, the idea that all Idahoans should be free of discrimination … is somehow deemed to be outside the field,” he said.
“We most adamantly do not accept this, and Sen. (Cherie) Buckner-Webb and I will use all permissible procedures in this Legislature to advance the Add the Words bill this session. We also call on the people of Idaho to contact their legislators on this important issue,” Burgoyne said.
He and Buckner-Webb, co-sponsors of the bill, were joined at a Capitol news conference by an array of supporters of the bill, including Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan, representatives of the Boise Police, the ACLU of Idaho, the Pride Foundation, Add the Words, and a bevy of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation has been proposed for eight straight years, but never has gotten a hearing.
Idaho’s Human Rights Act currently 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 ordinances to extend those protections to gays; last June, the Idaho Republican Party state central committee passed a resolution calling on the Legislature to pass a law invalidating such local ordinances.
Buckner-Webb said, “We must protect all of our citizens from discrimination. It’s the right thing to do.”