Pocatello rallies for Non-Discrimination Ordinance


Photo courtesy of Josh Rahl

The passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Pocatello maybe still to close to call, but  that doesn’t mean its supporters are just  sitting around waiting for a final vote.

City council members heard from dozens of supporters of the ordinance last week during a public testimony meeting.  According to the Chair of the Human Relations Advisory Committee for the city of Pocatello and a key supporting figure of the law, Susie Matsuura, approximately 200 residents turned out last Thursday to hear testimony and speak in favor of the ordinance that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations.

“Just the numbers of people who turned out last night took my breath away, and their impassioned testimony – oh my. I can’t think of the words to praise them for their bravery and passion in coming forward to share a very personal part of their lives,” said Matsuura in a press release.

Matsuura said she “urges all to thank the Pocatello City Council and Mayor for the opportunity to speak out on this important issue. The city leaders took the time to really hear the voices and see the “beating hearts” of some of their most vulnerable constituents.”

During the meeting State Senator Roy Lacey, D-District 29, spoke in favor of the ordinance, telling the council members he believed the measure would benefit the community as a whole.

Former city council woman and state representative, Donna Boe, also spoke. She said she empathized with the council as they deliberate their decision, but she encouraged them to view the measure favorably.

The meeting was filled with several emotional moments. Despite the fact that  they could lose their jobs and their housing,  four residents “came out” publicly for the first time to support the measure, including Gloria Mayer, a 63-year old grandma.  Mayer noted, “I am gay. That is the first time I have said that publicly. It is not that I’m embarrassed to be gay. But I have always felt that who I love is nobody’s business. ‘Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in,’ so here I am.”

Following the meeting, supporters were encouraged to send notes of thanks to the city council members.  A Facebook group set up to keep citizens informed about the ordinance is also encouraging folks to show their support by taking the following steps:

1. Plan to come to the next city council meeting on April 18, city hall, 6 p.m., earlier if you want to get a seat — they need to see our beating hearts and see our faces — AGAIN. We are real people with lives.

2. Write letters and emails, even very short ones that just say, “pass the ordinance” to the city council and if you want, the mayor.

3. Make one-on-one appointments with Councilmen Jim Johnston and Steve Brown. Let them hear from you, your personal story.

You can learn more about the ordinance and the group HERE.


Number 4: Moscow, Idaho Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance!

Moscow, Idaho

The Moscow City Council has voted 6-0 to approve a measure that prohibits discrimination in the areas of housing and employment based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. According to Jim Huggins, head of GetEQUAL Idaho, the measure passed the council Monday night with no discussion.

Moscow joins Sandpoint, Boise, and Ketchum in banning LGBT discrimination within city limits.

Even though four cities have passed similar measures , that still leaves about one-sixth of the state’s population unprotected by any sort of sexual orientation or gender identity anti-discrimination ordinance or law. For the seventh year in a row, the Idaho Legislature declined to consider a similar statewide measure.

The City of Pocatello will be holding a public hearing regarding its purposed non-discrimination ordinance later this week. According to the City Council’s agenda,”time has been set aside for the Council to receive comments from the public regarding a proposed ordinance enacting a new section to the Pocatello Municipal Code, Title 9 chapter 36, to prohibit discriminatory acts in housing, employment and public accommodations upon sexual orientation and gender identity /expression.”

The council meeting is set for Thursday, April 4th at 6:00 pm, at the City Council Chambers, located at 911 N. 7th Ave in Pocatello. Click HERE to find out more.

Moscow Advances Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Moscow, Idaho

The city of Moscow, Idaho may soon become the fourth city in Idaho to ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. During a meeting Monday night the Moscow City Council Administrative Committee voted 3-0 to send the ordinance onto the full city council with a “do pass” recommendation.

That’s the same committee that sent the ordinance back last month for what Moscow City Councilman Tom Lamar described as “review and input.” According to Jim Huggins, head of GetEQUAL Idaho, the council is expected to take the ordinance up during its meeting on April 1st.

The ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination in areas of housing and employment based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is a collaboration between the Human Rights Commission and the Fair and Affordable Housing Commission.

Huggins says he expects the Moscow measure will pass the council. If passed, Moscow would join Sandpoint, Boise, and Ketchum in banning LGBT discrimination within city limits. There is speculation that Idaho Falls and Pocatello may be the next cities to take up the matter. Leaders in both towns have previously expressed interest in the idea. Even so, that still leaves about one-sixth of the state’s population unprotected by any sort of sexual orientation or gender identity anti-discrimination ordinance or law. For the seventh year in a row, the Idaho Legislature declined to consider a  similar statewide measure.

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.

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


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.)

%d bloggers like this: