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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Human Rights commissioner: ‘Sad that people treat each other the way they do’

Senators quizzed two Idaho Human Rights Commission members this morning who are up for reappointment, Sheila Olsen and Ruthie Johnson. Neither was asked about the question of expanding the jurisdiction of the commission to include discrimination cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity, as proposed in legislation that died in a House committee last week.

Olsen told the Senate State Affairs Committee, “This is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done and probably one of the most private, in that all of the information that’s considered is confidential except routine matters. I have to tell you, I am so impressed with the way the State of Idaho conducts this. … that it has this commission and how seriously it takes each case that is presented to it.” Idaho’s Human Rights Commission receives and mediates complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and disability. 

Olsen said each complaint is investigated by the Idaho Attorney General’s office. “I have nothing but praise for the Attorney General’s office,” she said. “We get the pros and cons, much like a trial, of each case, and I’m so honored actually to be on the commission with each of the other commissioners. I don’t find a bias, a pre-conceived bias, that comes based on party or any other thing.” She added, “Sometimes the cases are very sad, sad that people may treat each other the way they do. The law is always considered with this.”

Johnson told the senators, “It’s been interesting and challenging. … Everybody there has just tried very hard to do the proper job and to get the job done, and we’ve discussed things, we’ve agreed and we’ve disagreed, but it’s never been antagonistic, and I think it’s been a wonderful group to work with.”

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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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