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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Things I refuse to repeat,’ ‘Give them hope’

More from this morning’s testimony, which has been heavily in favor of HB 2, the “Add the Words” bill:

Hannah Brass Greer referred to earlier testimony from HB 2 opponents about Facebook’s many options for people to identify themselves. “It’s a good thing we don’t have to base our laws on Facebook definitions,” she said. “Sexual orientation means heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.” She said, “Absent these protections, people in Idaho live in fear every day. ... Updating the law won’t end unfair treatment overnight. However, updating the law will help ensure that all people who want to work hard and contribute to their communities are treated fairly.”

Mistie Tolman said, “I was born and raised here in Idaho. I live in Meridian with my wife and four children.” Breaking into tears, she said, “Sorry, this has been a long time coming, being able to stand in front of you and testify in a public hearing. Maybe I was naïve, but I wasn’t expecting to come here these past two days and hear my friends, my family and the people I love have things said about them that I refuse to repeat. My friends like Emmy and Danielle, treated horribly and had salacious things said about them because they look different from me. I’ve even received a threatening voice mail since this hearing started. The comments that have been made the last two days alone are reason why we need to update the Human Rights Act. I am here today as your sister, your friend, your neighbor. I know what it’s like to be afraid of losing my job if somebody found out that I was gay. I lived with that fear so much myself, that at my job I would withdraw from personal conversation with my boss or my coworkers. … I didn’t talk about my weekends if I could help it. I didn’t have pictures of my family at work.”

Emily Shannon told the committee, “By the time I entered middle school, words like ‘dyke’ were hurled at me. Teachers would not stop them. … I held onto the hope that high school would be better. Sadly I was wrong. In high school … epithets were hurled at me still, I was shoved into lockers, and my car was vandalized, the word ‘dyke’ scratched on it.’” When she went to school authorities, they offered no help, she said. “One counselor even suggested to me that perhaps if I didn’t look so gay, kids would stop harassing me. … I never felt safe.” She said, “I implore you to pass HB 2, not only for me, but for every single teenager in Idaho questioning what their life will be. Give them hope.”

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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