This article was written for the December 2011 newsletter by Jennifer Whitney, Community Organizer, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest
The Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA), Idaho’s non-discrimination law, prohibits discrimination based on sex, age, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or national origin in the areas of employment, housing, education, and public accommodation. Unfortunately, these protections do not extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people or those perceived to be LGBT in any way.
Amazingly, it is still legal in the state of Idaho to fire someone for being gay or transgender, despite the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity have no relationship to workplace performance. Access to stable and secure housing is essential for successful and healthy families, but our gay or transgender friends often experience housing discrimination, denying them one of life’s most basic necessities. Every day Idahoans live in fear of being fired, denied housing, public service, or educational opportunities because they are gay or transgender. This is unacceptable! No one should be fired for who they are or who they love.
Since Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest (PPVNW) believes that each of us should be free to build loving relationships and create families—without discrimination—we are working to add the words ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to Idaho’s Human Rights Act. This would provide protections to LGBT Idahoans that work hard to provide for their families.
Because of discrimination, and fear of discrimination, many LGBT employees hide their identities, are paid less, and have fewer employment opportunities than their non-LGBT counterparts. This prejudice puts LGBT people at increased risk for poor physical and mental health. A recent statewide poll found that more than 63% of Idahoans across party lines feel it should be illegal to fire someone due to their sexual orientation. Luckily, businesses that support anti-discrimination measures for LGBT people recognize that having a corporate culture that embraces diversity improves worker productivity, helps recruit the best talent, and saves businesses money.
LGBT Idahoans contribute to the economic health of Idaho and strive to provide for their families just like everyone else, so denying them housing and employment hurts everyone. Equality is everyone’s concern!
There are a number of things community members across the state can do to help end discrimination in Idaho:
1. Join our state-wide Day of Action on Saturday, January 28th to take action to advance the IHRA amendment efforts, and show your support for our gay and transgender friends and family. We would love to see as many cities across Idaho participating in this as possible. See contact information below to help organize an event in your city, or to participate in one going on near you.
2. Volunteer with PPVNW at one of our upcoming phone banks calling folks throughout Idaho to educate citizens on this important issue and urge them to contact their elected officials. Dates are to be determined, but contact the organizer closest to you to receive more details: training and pizza will be provided.
3. Visit www.4idaho.org/humanrights to sign the online petition or endorse this amendment as a business, and visit www.addthewords.org to learn how you can send sticky notes to your legislators, have one posted on the website, and have one hung in the capitol to show your support!
To help with any of these efforts or to learn more please contact your local Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest Community Organizer:
Jennifer Whitney / Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org / 509.241.4301
Jonny Carkin / Jonny.email@example.com / 208.703.2277 ext.13
PPVNW will be working to “add the words” to the IHRA throughout the upcoming legislative session to make sure all families in Idaho have access to housing and employment. We welcome collaboration and support from the broader human rights community, and hope to hear from you in the near future!