Opinion: Tell Idaho Lawmakers it’s past time to “Add the Words!”

addwords

I’ll never forget the first time I took part in any sort of lobbying at the capital building.  It was during the 2006 legislative session. A handful of Twin Falls residents drove up to Boise to beg lawmakers not to pass a bill that effectively would become a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriages.

There were ten or so of us gathered on the steps capital steps amidst a sea of red balloons, each representing a different Idaho county. Throughout the day lawmakers came and went, some smiled, some scowled but most simply ignored us.

One  lawmaker in particular though drove a message home that I’ve never, ever forgotten. He came over to our balloons and asked me what they were for. I explained it to him and then asked if we could count on his support. His eyes narrowed and his voice, which had  previously carried an amical tone,  lowered to a whispering growl, “You listen to me, you might as well pack it up and go away.  As long as my colleagues and I are members of this body you people will never have any rights, you hear me? Ever!”

He walked away leaving me to wonder just what it was about “us people” that had made him so upset and so full of anger. Seven years later, his words not only still haunt me, but his emotional response still carries the obviously  intended sting. Every time I walk through the doors of that majestic marble building, I’m reminded that there are those inside those chambers that consider me something less than a full citizen.

Last year, as I set there watching the members of the Senate State Affairs Committee once again deny our plea to add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, that lawmaker’s words rang out in my head.

“It’ll happen, one of these days,” I’m told by sympathetic supporters. “It’s just not the right year, yet.” Some say it’ll take more education, more talking, more explaining.  I tend to believe that after seven years of begging for our elected officials to look us in the eyes and to hear our stories, most, if not all by now, know full well what we are asking for. The right to full citizenship, without having to worry about whether or not we are going to lose our jobs, or be kicked out of our homes or kicked out of a cab because of our sexual orientation or gender identities is not a hard concept to grasp.

Later this morning a group of lawmakers will gather to hear from a small panel of experts and citizens on why they should “Add the Words.” The group will be made up of members from both  the House and Senate State Affairs committees. The hope from organizers is that it will give the committee members a chance to hear, in some of our own words, why the addition is so vitally important to our community.

While I’m glad we are getting the chance, I have another hope as well. It is my hope that as those committee members look out into the faces of those in the audience and out into the cameras that will be streaming the meeting across our great state, their hearts and minds will be filled with the realization that “we people” are just people, just like they are, with the same hopes and dreams, ambitions and fears, with the same love for state and country as any member of those hallowed halls.

Will our presence at the event change their minds? It could.

Will it  help to send the message that we believe that it’s long past time to recognize us as citizens? Maybe.

Will it it show them that we aren’t going away? Definitely.

Add the Words, Idaho organizers are encouraging community members to attend Wednesday morning’s meeting in order to silently show their support for the bill.  The”informal  presentation” is scheduled for this  morning at 8:00 am in the Lincoln Auditorium on the Capitol’s garden level. Those around the state can watch it live on IPTV by CLICKING HERE.

You can also contact Senate committee members and let them know that you support A FULL HEARING on the measure:

Sen. McKenzie: CMckenzie@senate.idaho.gov (208) 367-9400

Sen. Lodge: PALodge@senate.idaho.gov

Sen. Winder: CWinder@senate.idaho.gov (208) 343-2300

Sen. Fulcher: Rfulcher@senate.idaho.gov (208) 332-1340

Sen Davis: BMDavis@senate.idaho.gov (208) 522-8100

Sen. Hill: BHill@senate.idaho.gov (208) 356-3677

Sen. Siddoway (Contact him by Clicking HERE.)

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