Pocatello rallies for Non-Discrimination Ordinance

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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.

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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.

Committee Chair: No Vote for Idaho’s “Add the Words” Bill

add mckenzie

The Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee appears to be ready to once again ignore the plight of Idaho’s LGBT community. For the seventh year in a row committee members are on the verge of going home without giving a bill that would add the words “sexual orientation or gender identity” to Idaho’s human rights amendment.

The bill would make it illegal in Idaho to discriminate against someone solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in cases of employment, housing or in other public amenities.

Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie tells the Idaho Statesman that, while some lawmakers felt “bad” for their votes last year,”no bill will be considered for introduction.”

The issue reached a near-tipping point with citizens last year, following the participation of thousands of supporters through out the state, but ultimately the bill  failed to gain enough votes in the committee to move forward.

Last month, state lawmakers were invited to attend a panel discussion to learn more about the bill. However, no Republicans and very few Democrats turned out for the lunch time presentation.

All may not be lost, however. For the first time ever, members of the Senate and House State Affairs committees are scheduled to hear an “informal presentation” regarding the measure.

McKenzie tells the Statesman,”out of respect for (Sen. Cherie) Buckner-Webb (the bill’s sponsor) he agreed to a 45 minute to one-hour presentation. Formal public testimony won’t be taken and opponents won’t be asked to speak. Buckner-Webb is organizing the event.”

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 Wednesday morning at 8:00 am in the Lincoln Auditorium on the Capitol’s garden level.

You can also contact  committee members and let them know that you support 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.)

Moscow’s Anti-discrimination Ordinance sent back for Revisions

Moscow, Idaho

The Moscow Administrative Council voted Monday night to send a proposed ordinance prohibiting LGBT discrimination back to the two committees responsible for crafting it.

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.

City Attorney Randy Fife drafted the ordinance and presented it to the City of Moscow Administrative Committee on Monday night.

Jim Huggins, head of GetEQUAL Idaho, attended the meeting. He reports Fair and Affordable Housing Commission’s Ken Nagy told the committee that in some cases discrimination in housing is necessary, based on past rental history etc. but that it’s wrong to discriminate, “just because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”. According to Huggins, Nagy’s was the only testimony taken during the meeting.

According to Moscow City Councilman Tom Lamar,”The City administrative committee action of sending it forward to the two citizen commissions was not so much for edits, but rather asking for review and input. There were no edits or modification requested by the Council Committee.”

The draft will be presented for a public hearing sometime in March or April. Following the hearing, it will return to the Administrative Committee, who will then decide whether or not to pass it on to the full city council. Huggins speculates that if all goes well, the ordinance should be in front of the city council sometime in May.

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.

For the seventh time in as many years, Idaho lawmakers will once again be asked to amend the state’s Human Rights Act to include the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” on a state-wide level.

Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, (D) Boise, says that she’s prepared to sponsor the measure this session. The language of the bill would be similar to last year’s proposed amendment, with a few minor changes.

Idaho’s Senator Chuck Winder blows More Hot Air

Cuck Winder

You might recall Idaho State Senator Chuck Winder from last year’s legislative session. The Boise Republican not only sponsored a  measure that would have required women to get an ultrasound before choosing an abortion, but he also not-so-subtly suggested that women were using rape as an excuse in order to undergo the procedure.  His comments sparked a national protest and, thankfully, the bill was defeated.

Sadly, it appears Winder is still full of a lot of hot air. The Boise Weekly reports that on Monday, which marked the ACLU-of Idaho’s Citizen Lobby Day, Winder told a group of high school students trying to discuss the problem of school bullying that he not only believed that “Homosexuality is a choice” but “that he didn’t believe there was a discrimination issue against the LGBT community.”

Not only is the state senator wrong, he’s dead wrong.

Licensed psychotherapist Dr. Allan Schwartz points out , while little is known about why some people are born with certain sexual orientation, the fact is major research runs absolutely contrary to Winder’s “belief”.

In areas of genetic research, Schwartz writes,”During the 1990’s evidence was found that a gene could be the root cause of homosexuality. More recently, both the X and Y chromosomes have been investigated to determine the causes of homosexuality. The Y chromosome is passed from the father to the son and it is this Y chromosome that determined the sex of the baby. All of these studies have been successful to the extent that they have found genetic factors to be the cause of homosexuality in fifty to sixty percent of the populations studied.”

Along the same biological lines, Schwartz  says,”A very recent study found that mothers who had given birth to several male children are more likely to have a son born who will be gay. It is thought that something happened in the mother’s uterus after she delivered her older children that altered the fetus of the last child in a way that makes him gay.”

Schwartz, along with every other credible expert on the subject within the last 30 or so years, reaches the conclusion that Winder, a local career politician, is obviously clueless to when it comes to the evidence regarding sexual orientation.

“As a result of everything I have read, learned and experienced as a mental health worker, I long ago concluded that homosexuality is not a matter of choice. Instead, it seems quite clear to me that there is a combination of genetic and biological factors that cause people to become gay,” Dr. Schwartz writes.

All Winder has to do was listen to the dozens of  personal stories told to the Boise City Council last December to know that discrimination against LGBT individuals is not only a very real problem, it continues to play out in the streets, towns and businesses throughout much of the state. He chose not to attend that City Council meeting, however.

As for bullying, according to a study published last year by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN),”The most common forms of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly (i.e., sometimes, often or all the time) by both students and teachers, are the use of the word “gay” in a negative way, such as “that’s so gay,” (students: 45%, teachers: 49%) and comments like “spaz” or “retard” (51% of students, 45% of teachers). Many also report regularly hearing students make homophobic remarks, such as “fag” or “lesbo” (students: 26%, teachers: 26%) and negative comments about race/ethnicity (students: 26%, teachers: 21%).”

Currently, Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

According to last year’s Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, out of 1,702  students in 48 public high schools in Idaho, 22.8 percent reported being bullied or harassed on school property.

Winder has also apparently drawn the ire of the marijuana legalization crowd as well. According to the Boise Weekly,”Winder’s Facebook page began overflowing with commentary” regarding two resolutions that seek to strengthen Idaho’s pot prohibition laws.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 112 seeks to state the Idaho Legislature’s opposition to the legalization of marijuana for any purpose in the State of Idaho, while Senate Joint Memorial 101 calls upon President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress “to take appropriate action to ensure that federal drug-free policy is upheld in all states,” writes the Weekly’s Andrew Crisp.

You can contact Winder at 208-332-1307  or email him at c.winder@senate.idaho.gov

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