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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Human rights appointee defends comments

Hayden Lake woman says statement about cross-dressing was taken out of context

Associated Press

A North Idaho Republican reconfirmed to the nine-member Commission on Human Rights after overcoming opposition by Democrats says she doesn’t discriminate against anyone.

Ruthie Johnson said comments she made this month at her confirmation hearing about firing workers for wearing clothing meant for the opposite sex were taken out of context.

At her April 3 hearing, she was asked if gays should be protected from workplace discrimination.

She responded, “If someone comes to work dressed in drag, they should be able to fire them,” according to meeting minutes.

Johnson said she meant that employers should be able to enforce dress codes.

“I’ve always said I don’t care what anyone does in the privacy of their own bedroom, I just don’t want to know about it,” said Johnson, 85.

Johnson was reconfirmed Thursday by the Senate to the commission that protects people in Idaho from illegal discrimination and handles federal complaints. Seven Democrats opposed Johnson, with 28 Republicans favoring her reappointment.

Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, contended Johnson’s views aren’t expansive enough for another three-year term.

“I have not discriminated against anyone,” Johnson said.

She said the cross-dressing question first came up in February when the commission was considering whether to support a bill to add protections for bisexual, lesbian, gay and transgendered people.

Idaho’s Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and disability.

The commission voted 5-4 against supporting the bill.

“I said, when they wanted to include BLGT, ‘Does that mean if someone comes to work in drag and they get fired, does that mean we have to defend them then?’ ” Johnson said.

She also said the bill to amend the state’s Human Rights Act could have led to same-sex marriages, which she opposes.

She said that in Washington, D.C., she worked with a man who was gay.

“He didn’t hide it, but he didn’t flaunt it,” she said. “When I learned he was a homosexual, I didn’t care. I still loved working with him. I still love him.”

She also said her children felt comfortable bringing home friends from college who were of different races and religions.

“None of my children has ever been in the slightest way prejudiced,” she said.

Johnson was first appointed to the commission in 2001.

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