Add the Words: One More Try 

Effort to expand Idaho's Human Rights Act returns to Statehouse

About 1,000 people gathered at the Statehouse Jan. 11 to press for an expansion of Idaho's Human Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jessica Murri

About 1,000 people gathered at the Statehouse Jan. 11 to press for an expansion of Idaho's Human Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

When Susie Matsuura's son came out at the age of 17, she said to herself, "We live in Blackfoot, Idaho. Could we live in a place where it would have been more difficult to come out? I don't think we could."

Since her son came out almost 10 years ago, Matsuura said she watched him face discrimination in Blackfoot and Boise, before he ultimately moved to Seattle with his boyfriend.

Matsuura watched the Idaho Legislature, time and again, refuse to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's Human Rights Act.

In front of nearly 1,000 people, while apologizing for her trembling voice, Masuura talked about being the mother of a gay son.

"I love him and I will protect him," Matsuura said. "That's why I've worked so hard on this issue. History has shown us that you can change attitudes by changing laws."

Emilie Jackson-Edney, co-chair of Add the Words Idaho, said the rally was to get people "engaged, excited and maybe even angry."

"When gay or lesbian people come out, they don't come out just to crawl back into the closet. They come out to live as they truly are," said Jackson-Edney. "A working gay woman has to guard herself. If a co-worker asks her what she did this weekend, she can't say, 'Well my partner and I did this,' because if someone at her firm has a moral objection to that, she could be fired and there's no recourse. She can't put pictures of her family on her desk like everyone else. She can't bring her partner to the company Christmas party. That's no quality of life."

Jackson-Edney said she wouldn't be able to end such discrimination without the help of straight allies, like Matsuura.

Another straight ally who spoke at the rally was Ken Bass, morning host from Boise's The River 94.9 FM, telling the crowd that he saw a woman at the rally with a sign that said, "Don't Add the Words," on one side and a slur on the other.

"She saw the size of this crowd, and I saw her jaw drop," Bass said. "And she turned and she walked away with her sign behind her."

At the rally's end, organizers handed out blue, pink, yellow, red and green ribbons for attendees to write down their names and cities. Then each person stepped up to lines strung between lamp posts and tied their ribbons in place as a symbol of support.

Jackson-Edney said she remains confident that a hoped-for legislative hearing would be packed with people who have been victims of discrimination. She said if it doesn't happen this year, then she'll try again next year... or the next.

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