Under the Influence? LDS Church Leader suggested Pocatello ARFP meeting

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A meeting between a national conservative religious group and Pocatello’s city council members, regarding a LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, was arranged by a local leader of the LDS Church.

According to the Idaho State Journal,” It was the Regional Public Affairs Director for the LDS Church, Larry Fisher, who first contacted Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad about giving an audience to Jacki Pick of the Washington-based conservative group so she could talk to city officials about the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance..”

Pick,  a senior legislative advisor for the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program, met with Council members on April 4th, ahead of a vote on an ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orintation or gender identity.

Fischer, Regional Public Affairs Director for the LDS Church, tells the Journal,”The Church has spoken publicly in support of nondiscrimination ordinances, and also recognizes the need for balance and the importance of all voices being heard. We felt that ARFP had a valuable perspective to offer regarding balance in crafting nondiscrimination ordinances.”

According to the Associated Press,”The meetings (with Pick) were held over five sessions and none included a quorum of the council, so no notes were taken.” The Journal reports that,”Lunch was brought in for a total cost to the city of $75.90.”

The Journal reported last month that Pick emailed Mayor Brian Blad a copy of a new purposed ordinance that, according to Deputy City Attorney Kirk Bybee,”removed criminal sanctions for violations and essentially allowed those with ‘sincere religious beliefs’ in opposition to the gay lifestyle to discriminate.”

Curiously, the LDS church supported a 2009 anti-discrimination measure in Salt Lake that includes sanctions for those who violate its ordinance. The Salt Lake ordinance, like ones passed in Boise and elsewhere, do allow for certain religious exemptions.

According to Local News 8-TV, Pick “repeatedly made claims that no ordinances like this have criminalized discriminatory behavior.” All four of Idaho’s LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinances call for imposing some sort of sanctions on would-be violators.

While the Council heard from the ACLU of Idaho and other local human rights organizations, the meetings with Pick mark the first major outside influence from a national conservative group on a LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinance in Idaho. It’s also important to note that none of the local or state organizations were given similar such meetings with council members.

The ordinance, drafted by Bybee, was defeated in a three to three tie, with Mayor Blad casting the tie-breaking “no’ vote in April.

A newly drafted ordinance was introduced to the Council on May 9th, but according to Local News 8, “the (City’s) Human Rights Committee advised the Council to postpone a vote on the ordinance until after the elections in November.

“The Fall of ’55” Screening part of Boise History Celebration

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Idaho’s capital city has been celebrating its sesquicentennial with numerous events and exhibits over the past few months. Tomorrow night, Boise 150 and Opera Idaho will join together to take a look at one of the darkest periods in Boise’s gay history.

The award-winning film documents the frenzy of the so-called “Boys Of Boise” scandal, which griped Boise, and the nation, until 1957.  During the scandal some 1,500 people were questioned, sixteen men faced charges, and fifteen men were sentenced to terms ranging from probation to life in prison.

According to the film’s producers,” Director Seth Randal’s gripping documentary provides unique insights into the pre-Stonewall gay experience as well as 1950s’ America’s struggle with the issue of homosexuality and the prevailing myth that it was a cancer that could be spread to the youth. Interesting parallels are also drawn with the era of McCarthyism, during which fear and paranoia supplanted rational thought, and the federal government began its own purge of gays (one that continued until recently in our military).”

The free screening is being held in conjunction with the Opera Idaho’s performances of Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah — a metaphor for McCarthyism, a period of intense fear of communism in America during the early 1950s.

A panel discussion will follow the screening. Panelists include longtime attorney and Boise High class of 1955 member, M. Neal Newhouse, Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey, longtime Boisean and former singer June Schmitz, the film’s historical adviser, Alan Virta, and the film’s director, Seth Randal.

The event will be held  from 7:00-9:30 pm, at the historic Egyptian Theater located at 700 West Main Street in downtown Boise.

Click HERE for more info about the event.

You can visit the film’s Facebook page by clicking HERE.

City of Boise Proclaims May 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

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For the very first time in its 8-year history members of the State of Idaho’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community and its allies are getting ready to join in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (I.D.A.H.O.).  As part of the planned festivities, Idaho’s capital city has officially proclaimed May 17th as the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

In a press release, I.D.A.H.O. organizer Christopher Cooke said the historic proclamation gives the entire state hope that a new era is on its way when it comes to human rights. “With the the unanimous passage of a LGBT focused anti-discrimination ordinance, the appointment of a LGBT Police liaison, and now the proclamation calling for an end of intolerance and phobia when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, it’s pretty clear that the city has become a role model for other cities in Idaho to follow. We have no doubt that Boise’s light of truth, fairness and compassion shines like a beacon and that equality will soon become the norm in every corner of our state thanks to its leadership.”

I.D.A.H.O. events are scheduled to take place in Idaho on May 16th and 17th. On Thursday, May 16th, Idahoans will gather at the Anne Frank Memorial for an interfaith vigil to honor those impacted by the harms of homophobia and transphobia here at home and around the globe. The vigil will begin at six pm.

 On Friday, May 17th there will be an educational forum on the progression of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equality. The forum will include a free screening of the award winning film, “Stonewall Uprising” followed by a panel discussion on the “state” of LGBT equality in America and here in Idaho. The event will be held from 5:30-7:30 pm inside the Boise State University Student Union Building Bishop Barnwell Room.

Pocatello’s LGBT community and its allies will also be observing I.D.A.H.O. on Friday with a celebration that will include speakers and personal stories. The event will start at 7:30 pm at the Co Ho (‘The smart bar’), located at 904 S 4th Ave, Pocatello, ID 83201. All events are free and open to the public.

Click HERE to visit the Act Up Idaho website. You can also find the group on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Pocatello unveils new LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance

 

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Members of the Pocatello City Council discussed a newly drafted ordinance aimed at reducing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression during their working session this morning.

The purposed ordinance comes on the heals of the defeat of a similar measure by the city council last month. Some say the new ordinance, which was drafted at the request of Mayor Brian Blad who cast a tie breaking no vote for the previous proposal, takes a more moderate stance on the issue.

According to a draft published in the meeting agenda, the new ordinance recognizes that,”every person has a sexual orientation and a gender identity/expression”,  it also acknowledges that discrimination against such classes in cases of employment, public accommodation and housing could and does occur, but it narrows the definitions of what exactly constitutes such discrimination. It also broadens the scope of who is exempted from following the ordinance.

One of the major concerns for supporters of a antidiscrimination ordinance has been the outside influence of  Jacki Pick, a senior legislative adviser for Ethics and Public Policy Center. According to the EPPC website the organisation was “established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral
tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy
issues.”

The  Idaho State Journal reports that,”Pick spent most of the day April 4 in meetings with city officials and sent a proposed new ordinance to Mayor Blad five days before the April 18 council meeting.” She also,”told council members that the ordinance needed more exemptions for possible enforcement if people objected on “religious grounds”, the Journal reported.  The Pocatello meetings mark the first major outside influence from a national conservative group on a LGBT anti-discrimination city ordinance in Idaho.

Blad’s vote against the previous ordinance has sparked a groundswell of support for former Mayor Roger Chase, who lost to Blad in 2009 and is once again seeking re-election. According to the Idaho State Journal, Blad “explained his decision, saying he was committed to developing an ordinance that will be supported by the entire community.” Chase, who has been supportive of LGBT issues in the past told the Journal,” issues surrounding the ordinance should have been resolved prior to the vote being taken.”

This morning’s meeting drew a strong turn out from supporters of a anti-discrimination ordinance. Many say the latest proposal is better than no ordinance at all, though some wonder just how much protection it will really offer. Four cities in Idaho have enacted LGBT anti-discrimination measures. Boise, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Ketchum have all banned LGBT discrimination within city limits.

You can read the new proposal HERE.

A Facebook page has been set up to help end LGBT discrimination in Pocatello. You can find that HERE. 

Idaho to Observe International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (I.D.A.H.O.)

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As hundreds of organizations around the world mobilize to celebrate the International Day Against Against Homophobia and Transphobia (I.D.A.H.O.), for the very first time in its 8-year history members of the state of Idaho’s LGBT community and its allies are getting ready to join in the celebration.

Created in 2004, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is global date set aside to draw the attention of policy makers, opinion leaders, social movements, public opinion, the media, etc, to the issue, and to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. As much as it is a day against violence and oppression, it is also a day for freedom, diversity and acceptance.

Organizers here in the state of Idaho say they are joining in the movement to not only highlight the problems of homophobia and transphobia around the state, but also to draw attention to the need for more elected officials to take a stand to protect ALL of their constituents.

Organizer Christopher Cooke says Idaho lawmakers can no longer ignore the growing need for such laws and ordinances,“When you have bodies like the United Nations and the State Department calling for tolerance and understanding for the LGBT community on a global scale, it’s mind-boggling that here at in the gem state lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women continue to be harassed, beat, and bullied. They also continue to be at risk of losing their housing, their jobs and can be denied public accommodation simply for being who they are. Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe the situation.”

Far from being a “gay” issue, homophobia and transphobia targets all people who don’t conform to majority sexual and gender roles. It also continues to be a global problem. In more than 80 countries around the world, loving someone of the same-sex is still considered illegal, at times involving life-time imprisonment. In 7 countries, homosexual acts are punishable by death. In almost all countries, freedom not to act as socially determined by one person’s sex at birth is being limited by Transphobic laws and attitudes. But even in progressive countries, like here in the U.S., these phobias still exist in the form of discriminatory laws, unjust representations in the media, unfair treatment by employers, negative social attitudes, etc.

“We are a coalition of concerned individuals, and organizations . Our dedication is driven by our passion, and shared desire to make Idaho the best we can. We have felt the collective pain in injustice in our community, and seek only to do our part in building, educating, and activating our community, and allies, in achieving dignity and equality. Though love we unlock the potential greatness our community has to offer,” says Cooke.

I.D.A.H.O. events are scheduled to take place in communities around the state on May 16th and 17th. The events are free and open to the public. To learn more, to share your story, or to get involved you can go to the event website set up for the state of Idaho set up at www.actupidaho.org or you can find the official Facebook page HERE.

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