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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Bound under one Constitution, not one religion,’ ‘Harassed every single day,’ ‘It can be asserted as a defense’

In more testimony this afternoon on HB 2, the bill to ban discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:

Scott Nicholson said he grew up in the South and saw “whites-only” restrooms, drinking fountains and the like, “much of which was justified via religion – it seems rather unbelievable now, but that is the case.” He said, “We’re all on our own paths, but we are joined together under one Constitution, not one religion. … They’re just folks who want the same things I do and you do when it comes to equal treatment.”

Fiona Kilfoyle told the committee, “I am transgender, I am also bisexual. ... I am lucky to be in a situation where I can live openly, as my employer is a multi-national corporation and has its own policies on discrimination. ... This does not mean that I am not harassed every single day, on the streets and in the stores of Boise. … What this legislation will do is will allow us to live without fear that we will be fired or evicted for who we are.”

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, highlighted the Idaho attorney general’s opinion she requested on HB 2, which concluded that the bill would not force clergy to marry gay couples, and would not impair the First Amendment rights of any Idahoan. “There is a means to provide those protections against discrimination and protect those bakers, and it is provided under existing law,” she said. She pointed to Idaho Code 73-402, “Free Exercise of Religion Protected.” “It can be asserted as a defense in any action, whether brought by a government or an individual,” she said. Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said his interpretation is that Idaho’s religious freedom law only applies to actions by a government, not court actions between individuals; he said that’s what prompted his unsuccessful bill last year aimed at religious freedom.

Rubel, who like Luker is an attorney, said the law applies to “a person whose religious exercise is limited.” She said, “My understanding is it has been asserted in claims brought before the Human Rights Commission.” Idaho’s religious freedom law passed in 2000.

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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