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

Idaho

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.”


Idaho Must Pay More Than $400,000 In Attorney Fees In Same-Sex Marriage Case

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c6f13b96970b-250wiAfter losing a battle to keep in place its discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage, the state of Idaho has been ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by same-sex couples who challenged the state in order to receive their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. The Spokesman-Review reports:

“There is no dispute that Plaintiffs are the prevailing parties and are therefore entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and litigation expenses,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote in an order issued late Friday.

The lawyers had sought $467,843; the state’s lawyers had argued for cutting that by more than half to $204,049. But Dale ruled that with only a few exceptions, the legal team led by Boise attorney Deborah Ferguson was entitled to the amounts it claimed, setting the payment at $401,663.

“In order to ensure that lawyers would be willing to represent persons with legitimate civil rights grievances, Congress determined that it would be necessary to compensate lawyers for all time reasonably expended on a case,” the judge wrote, quoting a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

CandyJudge Dale (pictured right) in May ruled against the marriage ban and in favor of the plaintiffs.

Adding to the over $400,000 the state must now pay out to the plantiffs' attorneys is the $87,000 the state spent defending the ban. That figure does not include any of the additional cost the state will incur as a result of Governor Butch Otter's request made to the U.S. Supreme Court last week that it not consider the question of marriage equality until it has a chance to review the case at play in Idaho as Otter believes it provides the "best vehicle" by which the Court could resolve “the marriage-litigation wave in all respects."

As for Otter's comments on the latest bill to hit the statehouse?

"Otter said Monday that he wasn’t ready to comment on the order and planned to consult with the members of Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council, which oversees a fund that’s been tapped six times in the past decade to cover similar awards of attorney fees in constitutional law cases. The fund currently has a balance of more than $1.7 million; lawmakers added another $1 million last year, at Otter’s urging."


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