BOISE, ID – Last week, lawmakers on the Senate State Affairs Committee soundly opposed a move to make it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in Idaho. Lawmakers on the committee did not debate the legislation and they didn’t hold a public hearing. Thursday, one Democrat tried to open up the debate one more time.
Our story begins with an attempt to re-define what contraband is in Idaho prisons. Idaho Senators were debating that legislation when Democratic Senator Nicole LeFavour spoke up to try and amend the bill. In a procedural move, the openly gay senator tried to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.
Nicole LeFavour “I think it is in the best interests of the state, of public safety, and of the people of Idaho, to ensure that all people, including prison employees, including those who work in contracting positions, in private employment, in the state of Idaho all have that certainty of not living in fear that they will lose a job or lose their housing as a result of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Republican Senator Bart Davis objected several times, saying the two issues were not related. LeFavour said they were. She was then granted a chance to explain how prison contraband and protections for gays and lesbians relate to each other.
Nicole LeFavour / Bart Davis “I would ask you to consider for a moment the lives of those individuals who do daily live with the concern that they may indeed be fired from their jobs or lose their housing. Now this is an experience for those employees which involves censoring themselves daily, hoping that someone will not, in essence…Again, I apologize Mr. President, another point of order. I know that the Senator’s heart is in this amendment. I am sympathetic to some of the concerns she raises. But the questions isn’t about the merits.”
Davis went on to say merging the two issues in the same legislation would violate the state Constitution. The constitution does state you cannot create a bill that addresses two separate subjects. The head of the Senate agreed, and LeFavour’s amendment failed. The Boise Senator said on her Facebook page that her goal was to have some debate and discussion on the issue. A grass roots campaign, known as Add the Words, has been campaigning for six years to get the four words into Idaho’s Human Rights Act.
Copyright BSPR 2012