Idaho Human Rights Act Update

This article was written for the Feb-March 2012 newsletter by Jennifer Whitney, Community Organizer, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest

Day of Action advocates in Plummer, ID on January 28, 2012.

On Saturday, January 28th, folks from all across Idaho joined together to show their support for the amendment to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho’s 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. Our annual Day of Action was an opportunity to urge these protections to extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Idahoans or those perceived to be LGBT in any way.

Twelve cities across Idaho hosted an event for this year’s Day of Action. Community members could take multiple actions to show their support ranging from rallies and sticky note writing, to candlelight vigils and photo shoots to share with their legislators. Idahoans have been working for six years to see this amendment pass, so seeing the state-wide support was both heartening and inspiring. To date, folks from 51 cities all over Idaho have written sticky notes and sent them to post in the capitol.

Day of Action advocates in Troy, ID on January 28, 2012.

North Idaho boasted 6 of these 12 events: Lewiston, Moscow, Troy, Potlatch, Plummer and Coeur d’Alene all hosted supportive activities for the Day of Action with over 150 people attending these 6 events. Boise’s rally on the Capitol steps was attended by almost 1,000 supporters that brought sticky notes, and respectfully and quietly filed inside to post their sticky notes on the glass doors of the House and Senate Chambers. It was a moving sight to see. (http://youtu.be/lFRTihGYlcs)

On Friday, February 10th, the Senate State Affairs Committee held a print hearing to decide if the amendment could be printed as a bill and have the option for a public hearing. More than 300 community members attended, and the committee was forced to move to a bigger room.  Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai gave a moving speech saying that it would be a shame not to allow this amendment to be printed to hear how this impacts thousands of Idahoans.  Unfortunately, 7 of the 9 Senators voted not to print it. (http://youtu.be/XljOOlK928k)

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 planning to include the IHRA amendment as one of our topics to speak with legislators about on our annual Lobby Day on Monday, February 20th. Despite the amendment’s inability to move forward this legislative session, our lawmakers need to know this continues to be an issue in Idaho, and we won’t stop until everyone has equal protection under the law.

Access to steady jobs and stable and secure housing to raise healthy families are a concern for hundreds of LGBT Idahoans each year. 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.

A sticky note writer from the Day of Action Rally that was held in Coeur d’Alene, ID at the Human Rights Education Institute on January 28, 2012.

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.

Equality is everyone’s concern, and no one should be fired for who they are or who they love.  We will keep you posted on this issue and hope to see more human rights groups across Idaho join us next year in our efforts to provide protections for our LGBT neighbors.

In addition to the Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest Lobby Day, actions are still being taken this year to keep the amendment alive for 2012. Groups are protesting the committee’s decision not to print the bill. Also, efforts are being made to add the amendment to other bills so some discussion and debate can take place.

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About nwchr

The Northwest Coalition for Human Rights (NWCHR) exists to facilitate connections and communication among organizations and individuals who are engaged in human rights and social justice work in the Northwest region of the United States, with special focus on the Inland Northwest. The coalition, inspired by Bill Wassmuth's former Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, will give strength to those working at the local level by allowing them to share resources, information, and ideas, as well as making them part of a larger support system. The University of Idaho Office of Human Rights, Access, and Inclusion (HRAI) in Moscow serves as the administrative home for the NWCHR, and the Coalition strives to build strong membership from throughout Idaho and eastern Washington, as well as from other parts of the Northwest region. All are welcome to join NWCHR and give their input.
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