An “Add the Words” bill was introduced in the Senate today by two Boise Democratic senators, Sens. Grant Burgoyne and Cherie Buckner-Webb, to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The deadline to introduce personal bills – those that don’t first go through a committee to get a vote on whether or not they’ll be introduced – is this Friday. “There is a deadline, and we and the stakeholders definitely want to have a bill,” Burgoyne said. “So we just thought that to make sure that there is a bill, that we should put a bill in.”
The measure, like last year’s bill, adds the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, banning discrimination on those bases in housing, employment and public accommodations. “It just adds the four words – that’s all it does,” Burgoyne said. Yet the bill has some small differences from last year’s legislation, which was the topic of an emotional, multi-day hearing before it died on a party-line vote in the House State Affairs Committee.
“There was a call in the House committee last year, there were questions and suggestions that there should be definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity, so those two definitions have been added,” said Burgoyne, who is a lawyer. “We would be ecstatic if that bill was assigned to committee and passed the House and Senate, but we know it’s probably a tougher road than that.”
Before the start of this year’s legislative session, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he was working on compromise legislation to address both the discrimination issue and questions about religious liberty. Burgoyne said he has been talking with Hill and others. “We’re still making efforts toward compromise,” Burgoyne said. “What that looks like I can’t predict, and what the outcome of our discussions will be I can’t predict. This is not intended to change the tenor of our discussions.”
The new bill, SB 1196, so far shows just Buckner-Webb as lead sponsor and Burgoyne as co-sponsor, but he said, “We will be adding co-sponsors, which the rules allow us to do.” You can see the bill online here.