Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Idaho Add the Words Legislation Still Being Crafted at Statehouse

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 9:16 AM

What is "sexual orientation?"

What is "a transition?"

Is gender the same as gender identity?

Those aren’t questions on a university sociology exam but part of the discussion surrounding the pre-launch of legislation that would add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Talk of justice, equality and fairness center the conversation.

“What I’m really hearing people say is, ‘Please help us,’” Boise Democratic Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb told Boise Weekly.

“We’re sitting down and having conversations. We’re talking about what it means,” Buckner-Webb said of a proposal she plans to co-sponsor with Boise Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne that would extend antidiscrimination protections to gender identity and sexual orientation.

“We’re hopeful that we might be able to (introduce) it by the end of this session or at the beginning of the next session,” Buckner-Webb said.

It is not illegal to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the state. A handful of Idaho cities and towns have passed and proposed ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at municipal levels but lawmakers have refused to add such protections to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Six times.

“I have to acknowledge and give kudos to those who have worked so hard on this the last six years,” Buckner-Webb said of the attempts that had thousands rallying for a proposal that died, year after year, in committee.

During the 2012 legislative session, a GOP-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee voted along party lines not to print the measure, effectively killing the bill before hearing any public testimony. Buckner-Webb has been listening to what that testimony might have sounded like.

“One of the things that I hear about from the community is fear. Fear of discovery. And it takes a lot of energy to cover up who you really are, and sometimes that fear can turn into all kinds of things. That fear can turn into anger. That fear can turn into depression. It can turn into self-loathing.”

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