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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Marketplace will take care of itself,’ ‘My son Ryan passed away’

Julie Zicha of Pocatello testifies to the House State Affairs Committee on Monday (Betsy Russell)
Julie Zicha of Pocatello testifies to the House State Affairs Committee on Monday (Betsy Russell)

The first two people to to testify at this morning’s “Add the Words” hearing were both from Pocatello, Heather Disselkoen, testifying against HB 2, and Julie Zicha, testifying in favor. Zicha’s son Ryan committed suicide at the age of 19 after years of harassment for being gay. Disselkoen said the maretkplace will take care of the issue. “These special protections are not warranted,” she said, telling the committee that she’s not found that any complaints, other than the Hitching Post issue in Coeur d’Alene, have been filed in any of the 10 Idaho cites that have enacted local ordinances banning discrimination against gays. “The hard truth is if discrimination in housing and public accommodations were as prevalent and widespread” as some say, “there would be complaints.”

She said, “There is overwhelming evidence that people of faith are being punished for their faith across this country and enactment of this law will guarantee other potential victims in Idaho. … There isn’t a good or service that isn’t available to every Idaho citizen right now. The marketplace takes care of itself.”

Next up was Julie Zicha, who told the committee, “My son Ryan passed away ... at the age of 19 in Pocatello, Idaho. He was gay. He was a wonderful, wonderful kid.” She said when the family moved to Pocatello and Ryan enrolled in high school, “Within days of starting school in Pocatello, the harassment started for Ryan. First it was things like name-calling, and then it got progressively worse. There was pushing and shoving in the hallways.” One night, at the age of 16, he went to a party with friends. “He was literally dragged out of the party by a group of some of the more popular kids who had a problem with the fact that Ryan was openly gay. They drug him out into the snow, beat him up so badly, punched him in the stomach so hard that he was vomiting, and then left him there.”

As a young adult in Pocatello, he was turned away from rental housing and jobs, she said. After years of harassment, he was different from the confident, straight-A student he was when the family first moved to town, the mother said. At the age of 19, he took his own life. She called for passing HB 2, calling it, “A very important first step for these kids, that they’ll have an opportunity for a brighter tomorrow,” to grow up, live a life, and love a partner.

Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, said, “It certainly is heart-breaking, and my condolences for your loss.”

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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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