How An East Idaho Dressing Room Incident Might Impact LGBT Rights Cause

Jul 14, 2016

Proponents of laws that bar transgender people from using public bathrooms and dressing rooms that conform to their gender identity are already seizing on an incident in eastern Idaho this week. A transgender woman is accused of taking pictures of a woman changing clothes in a Target dressing room in Ammon.

Boise transgender activist Emilie Jackson-Edney says it’s wrong to judge all transgender people by one person’s actions. But she says that will probably happen anyway in this case.

“The trans community certainly is marginalized and maligned, so there certainly is fear within that community that something like this could happen and it could be exploited to harm the community even further,” she says.

Jackson-Edney isn’t sure if this incident will hurt the LGBT rights cause in Idaho or not. But she fears it will make it harder to persuade lawmakers to pass housing and employment discrimination protections.  

“It will probably be brought up in any discussion and any lobbying effort that I have or any of my allies have in the next session,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll be able to negate any concerns people have with regards to this particular incident.”

Jackson-Edney says she would not be at all surprised if some Idaho lawmakers next year use the east Idaho dressing room arrest as a reason to limit transgender bathroom and dressing room access.

Idaho State Representative John McCrostie also thinks that might happen. McCrostie is a Democrat from Garden City and currently Idaho’s only openly gay legislator.

“It certainly can be fuel to the fire for people who are looking to suppress the LGBT community and promote their own discriminatory laws,” McCrostie says.

But he says the Idaho lawmakers who might want a transgender bathroom law would use the incident in their arguments no matter what state it happened in.

We reached out to lawmakers who have previously opposed passing discrimination protections for transgender Idahoans but did not hear back from most in time for this story. We did speak with Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise) who two years ago sponsored bills to protect people who object to same sex marriage on religious grounds. Luker says he has no intention of pushing a transgender bathroom and dressing room law next year. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio