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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Right side of history,’ ‘This decade’s civil rights movement,’ ‘What religious freedom is about’

The “Add the Words” hearing has gone well past the planned 8 p.m. close tonight. Three juniors at Mountain View High School were among the final people called to testify at this evening’s hearing on HB 2, the civil rights bill regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. “A lot of businesses see this as standing on the right side of history,” Corey Hendrickson-Rose told the committee. Nathan Hines said, “This is this decade’s civil rights movement.” The third student, Taylor Williams, said he disagrees who those who said homosexuality is a choice. “I believe that not one person would consciously choose to have everything be harder for the rest of their entire lives,” he said.

Rabbi Dan Fink said, “We have heard a lot about sex, about Christmas, about abortions, about theology. This is not about any of those things, though I will add if you want to debate theology and claim to speak for God, it would help if you could understand her original language.” Amid laughter, he then quoted the Bible in the original Hebrew. “I’ve heard from people who believe and have said that I as a Jew am going to hell. … They have every right to that belief,” Fink said. “They have every right to persuade me to see the light as they see it. But they don’t have the right therefore to refuse to bake a cake for my wedding, they don’t have the right to deny me housing, and they don’t have the right to deny me employment. That’s what religious freedom is about. … It is not a license to discriminate in the public realm.” He said, “If you are a Jewish bus driver, you can’t send someone eating a ham and cheese sandwich to the back of your bus. Religious freedom works within the realm of religion, it doesn’t give you license to discriminate.”

Shaakirrah Sanders, University of Idaho professor of constitutional law, said, “The Constitution is color-blind.” Citing cases, she said, “The Constitution establishes an absolute right to believe, but there isn’t an absolute right to act.” Thus, she said, anti-discrimination laws are consistent with the Constitution. Sanders said, “I support HB 2 and I think this is a fine day for democracy in the state of Idaho.”

Dominic Gelsomino, a young man who was an openly gay Republican candidate for the Legislature in Boise this year, also spoke out in favor of the bill. “My fellow Republicans, HB 2 gives us an opportunity to make history without compromising our conservative principles,” he said. “Equal protection under the law is either for all or for none at all. … Being gay does not define me. It is who I am and it is something I cannot change.”

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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