More than 250 Add the Words demonstrators appeared in force at the Idaho Statehouse Feb. 17 to voice their concerns with a bill designed to protect religious freedom and their desire to see "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" added to Idaho's human rights law.
House Bill 427, which as written would permit businesses the right to deny service to patrons on account of "sincerely held religious belief," was the source of their displeasure as they surrounded the Capitol dome carrying signs with slogans like "ATW FTW."
Two demonstrators, daughter Naomi and her mother, Martha Spiva, held up signs which read "Keep Me Safe, Add The 4 Words" and "Protect My Daughter Stop hb 427." As bisexuals, they said they felt unprotected under current law. If HB 427 passes, they said, they could lose their jobs or be denied service.
"It was important for me for us to go to work," Martha said.
About their signs, Martha said they were trying to communicate that failing to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to Idaho's human rights act—and passing HB 427—would harm families like hers.
"It was important to use 'safe' and 'protect' on our signs because without them we're not protected," she said.
"This is about our faith traditions," she said. "[HB 427] will use religion as a weapon to discriminate. It doesn't celebrate our diversity as a community."
Congregant Janelle Wintersteen said that rather than protecting religious freedom, the bill will protect those aspects of religion that are divisive.
"These shield laws allow exceptionalism, which can lead to abuse and neglect," she said.
As the House chamber emptied—many legislators exited through the back, bypassing the demonstrators—the demonstrators hushed, placing their hands over their mouths in the now-familiar gesture of protest. Once the chamber cleared, the demonstrators then walked single file through the Capitol building before lining up outside on the Capitol steps.
But before Add the Words demonstrators could take to the steps outside of the the Statehouse, they needed to temporarily yield to another demonstration including parents and school children who came to the Capitol to participate in a school choice rally, advocating for the Idaho charter schools, which happens at the Statehouse each year on George Washington's Birthday.
Shortly after Add the Words advocates took to the Capitol steps, they heard from Marci Glass of Southminster Presbyterian Church, who put the faith community's objections succinctly:
"The God we serve, however that looks, does not need legal protection from discrimination."