Idaho Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced the “Add the Words” bill – to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on those grounds – as a personal bill in the Idaho House, just in time for Friday’s deadline for introduction of personal bills. Those are measures that don’t first go through a committee. “We continue to work on a solution,” said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, “but that’s the bill that is our preference, and we have not been offered a hearing on it.”
He said, “It’s really about everybody having economic independence and the right to live and work as they choose.” The Idaho Human Rights Act bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of race, gender, religion, age or disability, but doesn’t cover discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That means that in Idaho, people could legally be fired from their job or evicted from their home solely because they’re gay.
Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, had been working to persuade Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, to schedule an introductory hearing on the bill in his panel, but he declined.
Last week, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, met with former Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, to discuss the issue, the Idaho Statesman reported over the weekend. “We are probably closer than most people think we are,” Hill told the Statesman. “Nobody wants discrimination, but there are fears out there that we need to address on both sides.” He added there was an outside chance of legislation emerging this session. “But I wouldn’t say that’d be our best bet,” he said. Statesman reporter Bill Dentzer’s report is online here.
The Democrats’ “Add the Words” bill is HB 69; its lead sponsors are Erpelding and House Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and it is co-sponsored by every Democrat in the House and Senate. Today in the House, Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, assigned the bill to the House Ways & Means Committee, a leadership-controlled panel where many bills are sent to die.
Bedke said he's always sent all personal bills to Ways & Means. "That's been the policy since I came to the Legislature," he said. "I think it goes around the committee process."