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.

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

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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.)

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