Hearing attempts to change Hearts and Minds of Lawmakers

Photo courtesy of Ben Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Ben Wilson.

Members of Idaho’s House and Senate State Affairs committees met this morning to hear from supporters of Idaho’s long overdue “Add the Words” bill. Though Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie and Senate President ProTem Brent Hill have both said there will be no action on the legislation this year, organizers say the informational hearing could pave the way for future support.

During the roughly hour meeting, members of the committees heard from a mixture of civic, business and private leaders. Retired HP general manager Don Curtis, who also chairs the Idaho Human Rights Education Center’s advisory board, told the panel that his former company’s anti-discrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, was rolled out seamlessly and has since added extreme value to the company’s corporate culture.

A current HP hiring manager shared her experiences with the policy and pointed to a transgender employee’s personal journey as proof that such policies are effective.

Add the Words, Idaho head Mistie Tolman shared her story as a gay mother raising her children in a straight world. “The simple question before you today is whether gay and transgender Idahoans must continue to live as second-class citizens,” she challenged.

Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson testified that since Boise adopted its anti-discrimination ordinance in January, there have been no incidences reported, but he also pointed to the lack of protections in Idaho as a possible  cause and effect, “People aren’t reporting crimes because they fear being outed to their employers,” he told them.

Clark Krause, Executive Director of the  Boise Valley Economic Partnership told the lawmakers that anti-discrimination policies like the ones that have been adopted in Boise and a handful of other cities,”bring the jobs to Idaho.”

“Businesses expect their employees to be safe,” Krause told the Committees. “Discrimination just plain bad for business”.

Still, it’s hard to say what impact the meeting had on the committee members. This is the 7th year supporters have been denied a public hearing and full vote on the measure, some say they are frustrated by the lawmakers in action.

Idaho Senator Chuck Winder told the crowd gathered inside the capital auditorium that he “struggles” with anti-discrimination legislation. President  Brent Hill said he feels that the issue of discrimination was “a matter of the heart, not a matter of statute.”

Former Idaho State Senator Nicole Lefavour took to her facebook to suggest perhaps the issue would find more support among members of the house,”We as gay & transgender Idahoans CAN NOT let them make it so easy to force is to wait ANOTHER year for the dignity of inclusion in the state fair employment, housing & education laws, she wrote.

You can contact the members of the House State Affairs Committee at  208-332-1145 or by emailing them at hstaf@house.idaho.gov . Contact the members of the Senate State Affairs Committee at sstaf@senate.idaho.gov or by calling 208-332-1326 and ask them to reconsider their actions.

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