Human Rights Commission - Special Olympics - TCC

Human Rights Commission Votes Against Human Rights

The Idaho Human Rights Commission voted Monday night not to back protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people being proposed for the Idaho Human Rights Act.

After two years supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation in Idaho's Human Rights Act, the commission, with some new members, voted not to support legislation amending its charter.

Commission President Estella Zamora said she was disappointed and saddened at the vote.

"I believe that people need to be protected in their work, in their housing and in their business dealings, as any other human being," Zamora said.

The commission voted 5-4 not to support a bill that would amend the Human Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The act currently protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age (40 and older) and disability.

"I'm very, very disappointed because that is our role as a commission, we're a human rights agency," Zamora said. "If the Legislature approves this then it would be included in the Human Rights Act and we would have to enforce it."

Emilie Jackson-Edney, a co-convener of the group Idaho Equality, one of several organizations pushing the amendment, said that the commission does good work for many, but that the vote perpetuates blatant discrimination against LGBT people.

"To have a board of commissioners who wouldn't support human rights for everyone in this state is just unconscionable to me, it just doesn't make any sense," she said.

Commission Vice President Hyong Pak of Twin Falls and Daniel Boston and Andrea Wassner of Boise joined Zamora in supporting the measure.

Megan Ronk of Boise, Vernon Baker of St. Maries, Ruthie Johnson of Hayden Lake, Brian Scigliano of Boise and Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls voted not to support the amendment.

Opponents cited fears the workplace protections would lead to gay marriage or leave the state open to lawsuits.

Reached at her office, Ronk said her vote did not reflect the issue of discrimination.

"From my perspective, I didn't believe that it was the role of the commission to introduce policy, it seems to me that's the role of the Legislature," Ronk said.

Asked whether gays and lesbians are discriminated against in Idaho, Ronk replied: "I'm sure there are circumstances where that does occur but that was not the question that was brought up before the commission last night."

Jackson-Edney said that Ronk raised the jurisdiction issue and that an attorney assured her it was within the commission's purview to advise the Legislature on human-rights policy.

Special Olympics Takes Over

It was a beautiful clear-blue-sky Sunday at Bogus Basin as the Special Olympics World Winter Games commenced. Skiing a few runs on the front side, citydesk nearly bumped into Japanese and British racers, getting their feel for the snow before taking a run at the slalom course.

Cruising down the wide groomers, the only thing that gave away these athletes were their spiffy racing outfits. Special Olympics volunteers, coaches and aides in various color-coded jackets filled in the rest of the slope, which, combined with significant tentage and security, leant Bogus Basin a rather professional air.

The evening prior, some 13,000 fans packed the Idaho Center for opening ceremonies. Athletes delivered small globes to the struts of Irene Deely's towering, deeply colorful Olympic caldron, designed especially for the games. Later that night, a crew packed up the flaming caldron and shipped it to Boise's Grove Plaza, where another crew of volunteers, including citydesk, helped rebuild it in the midnight cold.

Downtown Boise is brimming with blue-and-white scarved Special Olympics attendees downing pints of Guinness, and cups of Thomas Hammer, walking the streets backpacked and armed with maps trying to figure out east from west. Visitors from China photographed locals playing footbag, Spanish-speaking travelers gabbed over the foosball table in the Boise Centre, German echoed out from a computer station and Brits hovered over the floor hockey rink.

Boise became an unexpected international village this week. It was not just Michael Franti who noticed during his packed Monday night benefit concert at the Knitting Factory: "I don't need a passport to walk on this Earth / anywhere I go 'cuz I was made of this Earth / I was born of this Earth / I breathe of this Earth and even with the pain I believe in this Earth."

Franti did an upbeat version of his "Everyone Deserves Music" for the Olympians in town and, like many artists who grace our stages, expressed some genuine appreciation for the reggae-funk-starved Boise crowd.

Sitting in the BW offices just before the games began, drinking beer and discussing the future of the newspaper industry, five members of the British Special Olympics team walked by our picture windows on Sixth Street. They stopped to wave and show off their new winter jackets through the window.

The entire Boise Weekly staff broke into applause; a few tears were shed.

In this town, with our self-obsessed intermountain drive for activity—the just do it mentality—it's a welcome reminder to, once in a while, just be a fan.

LBGT Center May Close

A 25-year-old community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Idahoans may have to close its doors within the next two months after a period of declining membership and fund raising.

The Community Center, a gathering place, resource center and lending library in Garden City, has about 60 days of funding remaining, but is locked into a three-year lease at its building, according to Amy Stinnett, who edits TCC's Diversity newspaper.

"We are doing our best," said Evie Smith, one of TCC's founding board members and a frequent volunteer at the all-volunteer center.

TCC's social calendar is filled with poker games, church and community meetings and potluck lunches, not to mention Academy Award and Mardi Gras parties.

But Smith said the group is down to about 70 members and may not be able to afford to stay open.

"We are the only facility in the state that offers a safe place for anybody who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender," Smith said.

TCC publishes Diversity, a 25-year-old monthly chronicle of Idaho's LGBT community. Stinnett said the Center will continue to publish regardless of what happens to TCC.

The current issue, available in boxes and at, includes a history of the first 20 years of the organization's existence, a marriage announcement and LGBT rights stories from Payette and Nampa.

The March issue promises a Q&A with RuPaul.

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, 4,241 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,406 in combat and 835 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,035. In the last week, two U.S. soldiers died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 12 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 90,608 and 98,911.


COST OF IRAQ WAR: $595,778,740,303


—Nathaniel Hoffman

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