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LGBT Rights Activists and ‘Supporters of Religious Freedom’ Face Off in Idaho Hearing on Non-Discrimination Bill: VIDEO

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As we reported yesterday, an Idaho House Committee had finally agreed to hear testimony on a proposed non-discrimination bill that would add protections for Idahoans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The hearing, which began yesterday and continues today, saw at-times heated disagreement between LGBT rights activists who have long campaigned for legislators to "add the words" "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's existing Human Rights Act and backers of so-called "religious freedom" who claim that adding protections for LGBT individuals would infringe upon the rights of the religious.

The AP reports:

"Don't make laws that protect (against) laws against nature and sexual deviant acts," said Paul Thompson of Twin Falls. "Regardless of sexual orientation, it is a law that makes a mockery of all that is created and to our creator."

State Rep. John McCrostie of Boise, currently Idaho's only openly gay state lawmaker, responded that he, too, was a Christian and asked if Thompson's beliefs were greater than his own.

"I respect an individual's desire to want to live out their lives as they feel compelled to do so," Thompson said. "But I owe myself authority to the written word of God."

Many LGBT individuals spoke up at the hearing to share their own stories of discrimination in an attempt to underscore the importance of the bill:

"I want to be valued as a human being based on the person that I am, the person that my mother raised me to be," said Julie Stratton of Post Falls. "Please include my wife and me as fully equal citizens of this state and help us to be proud of living here."

Stratton's testimony —along with many other personal stories of discrimination from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Idahoans— was countered by the many concerns coming from pastors, small business owners and national conservative organizations afraid the bill would infringe on free speech and religious freedoms.  

Arizona-based United Families International President Laura Bunker cited cases in other states where businesses were sued for declining to serve to same-sex couples getting married. 

"In the end these non-discrimination laws are not fair to all. Someone is ultimately discriminated against," Bunker said. "Why would Utah, or Idaho, sorry, want to put that kind of wedge between its citizens?"

As KIVI News Boise reports, the hearing will resume Tuesday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and again at 5:00 pm if needed.

You can watch a livestream of the Idaho House committee's ongoing session today, HERE

And watch video on the testimony given yesterday, AFTER THE JUMP... (warning: autoplay)

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Continue reading "LGBT Rights Activists and ‘Supporters of Religious Freedom’ Face Off in Idaho Hearing on Non-Discrimination Bill: VIDEO" »


Idaho House Committee Holds Historic Hearing On 'Add The Words' Bill Seeking LGBT Protections

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Add the Words, Idaho. 

That will again be the simple message from LGBT advocates to state lawmakers as an Idaho House Committee holds the first-ever hearing on a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's Human Rights Act. 

Hundreds are expected to testify at the hearing, which begins this morning but could last for up to three days.

The hearing comes nine years after the legislation was first introduced and is a major milestone for the colorful Add the Words, Idaho campaign, which last year staged a demonstration at the Capitol leading to dozens of arrests. 

KTVB-TV reports: 

This weekend training was offered at the Democratic Party headquarters to people who wish to testify at the hearing. They learned about the legislative process and what they can expect if they approach the microphone.

"A lot of people have concerns and they have questions," said Evangeline Beechler, who is the state chair of the LGBTA Democratic Caucus and helped organize the training. "We want to make sure they feel OK going in. You know this is people's livelihood, housing, employment, and it can be very scary because at this point without the 'Add the Words' bill they could lose their job." ... 

Chair of Add the Words Idaho, Cindy Gross, says this year it's more important then even to have their voices heard.

"Now that Idaho has marriage equality there will be more gay and transgender people going to work with a ring on their finger, and it will be more likely that they'll be discriminated against," said Gross. "It is now more important we add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Human Rights Act."

The hearing before the House Committee on State Affairs begins at 8 a.m. Mountain time. Watch it live here

Watch KTVB's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Idaho House Committee Holds Historic Hearing On 'Add The Words' Bill Seeking LGBT Protections" »


Republican Leaders Move To Add LGBT Protections To Idaho's Anti-Discrimination Law

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The Idaho House of Representatives will review a potential amendment to the state’s non-discrimination bill that would add explicit protections for peoples’ sexual orientations and gender identities. Though a specific date has yet to be set, leaders from the Republican side of the House have confirmed that a public hearing hearing would take place soon.

The formal addition of legal protections for Idaho’s queer population would come on the heels of a number of well struck wins for Idahoan marriage equality.


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

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Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


Ninth Circuit Denies Idaho Governor's Petition for En Banc Review of Gay Marriage Case

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The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has denied Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s petition for an en banc review of the court’s decision to strike down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban. Otter made good on his litigious efforts earlier this month after promising that he would continue to fight against marriage equality in Idaho until he was left with no other options.

“The Ninth Circuit correctly recognized that there is no need to reconsider the panel’s decision that Idaho’s marriage ban violates basic constitutional guarantees of equal protection,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision striking down the Idaho marriage ban is consistent with the rulings of three other federal appeals courts, which have rightly concluded that our Constitution cannot tolerate the profound harm that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry inflicts those couples and their children.”


Idaho Governor And Attorney General File File Petitions to Supreme Court Hoping to Stop Gay Marriages

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Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have both submitted petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of challenging same-sex marriage’s legality in the state. Though the petitions were filed separately, both argue that gay marriage in Idaho could have far reaching consequences that affect other states.

In the past Governor Otter has made clear his intentions to continuously fight against Idaho’s steady progress towards equality, even if it means wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Otter’s petition, which was filed earlier this week, argues that Idaho’s situation is unique from those of other states because of the couples responsible for initially challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Two of the four lesbians involved in the challenge, Otter points out, were married out of state and seeking to have their marriage recognized. Otter’s petition also falls back on the widely discredited idea that children thrive better under the care of opposite-sex parents.

"It is important that at least one of the cases this court considers on the merits be a case in which the traditional definition of marriage has been defended with the most robust defense available," wrote Gene Schaerr, one of Utah’s lead legal advisors in its fight against gay marriage. "This is that case."

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Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s petition fell back upon the idea that the reversal of Idaho’s ban was a governmental incursion against state’s rights.

"This case presents the Court with the opportunity to resolve a divisive split on a question of nationwide importance,” he explained in the petition. “Whether the United States Constitution now prohibits states from maintaining the traditional definition of civil marriage, i.e., between one man and one woman.”


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