Progress in Idaho on Justice for the LGBT Community

by Carol Stirling, Boise First Congregational United Church of Christ

People testified at the Boise City Council meeting last November about the fear of being “found out” at work. They don’t keep pictures of their children at work and struggle to answer questions from coworkers about their personal lives. Dozens of people spoke in a crowded Statehouse auditorium during a public hearing for a proposed city ordinance to prohibit discrimination in the city based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said she was motivated to push for the ordinance with Councilwoman Lauren McLean after hearing people who were targets of hate crimes say they were reluctant to contact police. These people fear being terminated by their employers if they explain why they must miss work for court. McLean said Boise is a city where everyone is treated equally, “and we as a council have the opportunity to make that clear by approving this ordinance.”

The room was packed at the third reading of the ordinance. The final vote was unanimously approved by six City Council members. Each councilperson spoke in favor of the ordinance and how it affected him or her personally. One councilwoman received many phone calls, letters, and e-mails in support of the ordinance. She said the faith community had come together in support of the ordinance. One councilman indicated it was a momentous occasion and probably one of the most important issues he will address during his tenure on the City Council. The audience rose to give the council a well-deserved standing ovation.

Sandpoint was the first city to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance.  Boise was next, and other Idaho cities are expected to follow.  However, an Idaho Senate committee rejected even introducing a proposed statewide law that would add protection against discrimination of gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

Boise First Congregational United Church of Christ hosted a celebration on January 12 to support passage of the Boise anti-discrimination ordinance.  The church showed The Color of Conscience, a one-hour Idaho Public Television documentary that looks at the development of the modern human rights movement inIdaho. It features the story of a small group of concerned citizens who fought against the Aryan Nation, ultimately bankrupting the neo-Nazi supremacist group in north Idaho. The documentary also examines current human rights issues in Idaho, such as gay rights, immigrant rights, and hate crimes.

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