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23 Gay Rights Activists Arrested In Idaho State Capitol

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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 1.19.19 PMAn estimated 23 gay rights activists were arrested in Idaho yesterday morning after protesting in the Idaho House and Senate chambers, attempting to pressure lawmakers to pass anti-discrimination protections reports Boise State Public Radio. The activists, wearing black shirts that said, "Add the 4 words Idaho," warned they would not leave until legislators added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Protesters risked arrest if they did not disperse before the House and Senate convened; Police began to arrest protesters that refused to leave on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing, two of whom were juveniles. The group issued a statement to the media on the matter.

Said Protesters: 

"Plain and simply, it is time the Idaho Legislature to use its voice to set the field level for those who live quiet lives in all our communities, those who are your own daughters and sons, those who deserve for our state to set in law that unfair businesses practices and intentional cruelty and discrimination against them is wrong."

This protest follows similar protests held during 2014s legislative session; up to 100 protesters were charged and arrested with misdemeanor trespassing during those protests. Republican lawmakers rejected legislation that would have amended the state’s Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity earlier this year. A House committee heard over 20 hours of testimony, with most in favor of passing the bill however, concern over the bill’s impact on religious freedoms caused the panel to vote the measure down.


Idaho House Committee Kills 'Add the Words' LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

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Idaho's House State Affairs Committee has voted 13-4 along party lines to defeat a bill that would have added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's Human Rights Act. 

The Idaho Statesman reports:

"We have come a long way. I think this very hearing has brought us a long, long way," said Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, addressing supporters of the bill. "Do not despair. Your concerns are legitimate, very legitimate, and people in Idaho and in the Legislature have heard you and are hearing you."

But, he added, "We have to be very careful how we make those rules and today my feeling is that this is not the rule that addresses the whole picture."

Thursday's vote came after nearly 21 hours of public testimony Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

KBOI2 adds many supporters of the bill left the auditorium in tears, and lined the halls of the Statehouse with their hands over their mouths in silent protest. 

The Statesman, which came out in support of the bill in an editorial this week, had a sticky note on yesterday's front page reading "Add No Words: Stand Up to Bullying!"

Mike Jung, the paper's publisher, offered the following statement in regards to the front-page ad:

Idaho"It's unfortunate the advertising Post It note that appeared on the front page of the Statesman has created hurt and anger among some readers. That was not the intent.

"We welcome and encourage open discussion and dialogue among many topics, including the legislation to ban discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people, commonly referred to as Add the Words. In fact, if a company or individual wanted to communicate they were in favor of the legislation, we would have accepted their paid advertising. Our position is clear on the billas we strongly support its passing.

"Regarding the paper accepting the ad, we provide a platform for both sides of every issue. I would have accepted the same Post-It note if it had read, 'Add the Words, Stop the Bullying.' We offer the same advertising opportunities regardless of the opinion shared within the advertisement. That said, we reserve the right to refuse advertisements that include slanderous or defaming statements. Wednesday's ad was marked as 'Paid for by Lance Wells.' "

Wells, a Christian writer and musician, has called homosexuality "a perversion – a very serious sin – that its practitioners and defenders will invariably demand that others accept it, approve of it, and (to one degree or another) participate in it." 

He also thinks homosexuality should be re-criminalized:

I would prefer to see the United States reenact laws condemning these unhealthy and indecent lifestyles in the most certain of terms, implementing serious consequences for those found guilty of practicing them.  For such people are, quite literally, enemies of the state.  Their behavior spreads spiritual, mental, and physical disease and disorder.  It undermines the most important bastions of society:  the Church and the family.


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.  


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