Overnight “Add the Words” Protest a Show of Solidarity for Idaho’s LGBT Community

What started out as an action of civil disobedience turned into a display of just how important the Add the Words bill is to Idaho’s LGBT community.

About 250 people turned out Thursday night for a vigil in support of the legislation. Those who worked on the bill this legislative session told the crowd that while some lawmakers have chosen for the sixth year in a row to ignore the voices of thousands of supporters, the work, courage and dedication of hundreds of volunteers has forever changed the issue in Idaho.

Retiring State Senator Edgar Malepeai, who sponsored the bill during a print hearing before the Idaho Senate State Affairs committee, told the crowd he believes that LGBT equality in Idaho is possible and called on the crowd not to give up their fight.

Idaho Senator Nicole LeFavour, who has worked on the legislation for over six years, echoed Malepeai’s words adding that while the majority of lawmakers support the legislation, some lack the political courage to do so publicly.

Before the vigil, Idaho Governor Butch Otter told KIVI-TV in Boise that some people were concerned that the campaign amounted to asking for “special protections.”

Supporters counter that there are no “special rights” contained within the legislation. The bill would grant LGBT individuals the same rights that the rest of Idaho’s population is already entitled to, including the right to not be fired based on their age, religion, race, creed or national origin.

Following the rally, over a dozen supporters chose to spend the night on the statehouse steps to show just how important the legislation was to them, their friends and their families.

The move was an act of civil disobedience after organizers were told earlier in the week that supporters would be arrested if they chose not to leave.

As the night wore on however it became clear that capital security was not interested in perusing legal action against the protestors. Instead, the action turned into a show of solidarity with the thousands of Idahoans who have yet to be guaranteed the same rights as every other Idahoan.

Boise comedian Matt Bragg told KTVB-TV in Boise, “We slept on the steps last night to represent the thousands of Idahoans who are left out in the cold every day while legislators ignore their voices.”

Following the action, Add the Words organizer Cody Hafer wrote, “We are determined, we are strong, we are NOT giving up, we are NOT letting this UNACCEPTABLE FAILURE go unnoticed. Idaho is too great for hate, and it is time to include gay and transgender (LGBT) Idahoans in our existing Human Rights Act!”

The legislative session is expected to wrap up sometime within the next week or so. Organizers say there is still time to get the legislation passed but that even if that doesn’t happen, they are calling for Idaho’s LGBT community to continue to the conversation with lawmakers and other minority groups, in hopes of getting the bill passed next year.

You can contact the following key lawmakers and ask them to support the bill before the legislation ends:

Representative Thomas F. Loertscher, TLoertsc@house.idaho.gov
Representative Max C. Black, MBlack@house.idaho.gov
Representative Eric Anderson, EAnderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Ken Andrus, KAndrus@house.idaho.gov
Representative Carlos Bilbao, CBilbao@house.idaho.gov
Representative Lynn M. Luker, LLuker@house.idaho.gov
Representative Erik Simpson, ESimpson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Frank N. Henderson, FHenderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Jim Guthrie, http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactmembersform.cfm?ID=1179

A New Day: Why We Can’t Afford to Let Idaho Lawmakers Ignore Us!

So Idaho’s state lawmakers are talking about wrapping up the session and heading home. Home to their farms, ranches and offices, their cozy kitchens, their husbands and wives and their full-time lives.

Meanwhile, in the coming months, somewhere in Idaho another person will be harassed and or brutally beaten because of their sexuality. They will be forced to choose over reporting the crime or suffering in silence, lest someone finds out he or she is gay.

Somewhere in Idaho another gay person will lose their job because their boyfriend or girlfriend brought them a rose at work or because they dared to hang a picture of their significant other in a cubical, just like all the rest of their co-workers. The difference, as will be subtly pointed out to them during a talk from their supervisor over a need to cut their hours, is that their co-workers aren’t “flaunting” their agenda.

“It is, after all, a small town,” he or she will be told. “We have a family friendly image to uphold.”

Somewhere in Idaho, in the coming months, another same-sex couple will be denied a place to live because,”it’s a one bedroom apartment, and we don’t really want any “kinky” stuff going on in the complex.”

It matters not that they’ve been together longer then the apartment manager or any of their would-be neighbors, discrimination is never about logic or reason.

A gay couple will get thrown out of a taxi somewhere because they were caught holding hands, a college or university will deny a professor a job because of his or her sexuality, a church official with a grudge will threaten to “out” one of its members, a lesbian mom will have to pay thousands of extra dollars in legal fees to prove to the courts and to her straight soon to be ex-husband that she is indeed a “fit” mother in her divorce case.

Somewhere in Idaho within the coming year, another young adult will be forced to decide between being who he or she is and loosing a scholarship, a job opportunity and possibly even their family.

One wonders if the leadership within the Idaho legislature will even give these individuals another thought, if they have at all.

It’s not as if they can claim they didn’t know what is going on or how hard it is to be part of the LGBT community in Idaho.

For six years they’ve ignored the stories, the voices and the call to be heroes to thousands.

This year though many lawmakers just plain lied.

“I wasn’t aware discrimination against the LGBT community was a problem in Idaho,” one longtime lawmaker wrote slickly to her constituent.

Having talked to several people who have approached the subject with her before, it’s pretty obvious the lawmaker was choosing to stick her head in the sand rather than publicly acknowledge the problem.

“This bill will lead to gay marriage,” another told their local newspaper when asked about the legislation.

The reporter failed to point out that Idaho’s human rights act has nothing to do with  marriage at all.

“I haven’t seen the bill,” said the House Speaker to a group of reporters, before going on to state that he didn’t intend to give the bill a hearing anyway.

Never mind the fact that the bill has been around for the past six years. Never mind the fact that he has refused to return the call of the volunteers working for the legislation. Never mind the fact that he has yet to see any sort of official document because his fellow party members have refused to even print the damn thing, let alone listen to the hundreds of voices from around the state the legislation would affect.

When asked after the now infamous print hearing, in which over 200 people attended to show their support, what needed to be done to help curb the discrimination against the LGBT community in Idaho, if not the bill he had just voted not to move forward, the now former State Senator John McGee arrogantly told a reporter that more “education was needed” and he left it at that.

He failed to mention that a person maybe fired, lose their housing or be denied other services for such “education” efforts.

Not that his verbal answer mattered that much anyway. The smirk on his face the  following the 7-2 vote not to print the bill  that morning contained more truth about how he felt about the community than any non-answer answer he could ever give to any reporter anyway.

And so after ignoring, lying and again shutting out the voices of their constituents, lawmakers are getting ready to wrap things up and head home for another year.

“Sine die,” they call it.

It means “without day.”

How appropriate.

I, for one, believe that even if one member of our community in Idaho is discriminated against, hurt, or rejected we continue to live our lives “without day.”

The voices of those who have gone before us can tell us what it’s like to live as shadows, from the “Boys of Boise” fiasco to the man or woman who lost everything because he or she was labeled a “homosexual.”

They know all to well what it’s like to live their lives in the oppressive night of discrimination’s darkness.

I, for one, refuse to live “without day” any longer.

On Thursday night, March 15th, we will have one more opportunity to let our lawmakers know this session that the night for the LGBT community in Idaho is over. We have the opportunity to let them know that we will no longer be tolerated their arrogance, their slick political verbiage and, in many cases, their blatant homophobia.

Will you be there?

Will you give voice and, by your presence, strength to the shout that they can no longer ignore the discrimination and pleas of Idaho’s LGBT community?

It’s time for a new day in Idaho.

A new day in which every Idahoan can go home without the worry of being hurt or harmed simply for being part of a sexual minority, a new day when we can all go to our jobs and occupations without worrying about being fired or harassed simply because we choose to love another of our own gender, a new day when we respect every individual based on their individuality rather than their sexual orientation, gender identity, political status, or religion.

I, for one, believe that new day is already here.

 

 

(Thursday’s vigil will be held from 8:00-9:00 pm on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. “It is time to gather together with signs and FLASHLIGHTS and let the Idaho Lawmakers know that their failure to hear the Idaho Human Rights Act amendment bill, for yet another year, was UNACCEPTABLE,” says the event Facebook Event page.)

Action Alert: Add the Words Flashlight Vigil to Be held this Thursday

It looks like Idaho lawmakers are getting ready to head home without hearing a bill that would add the words,”sexual orientation and gender identity” to Idaho’s human rights laws.

Despite the pleas of hundreds of Idahoans around the state, lawmakers continue to refuse to formally hear from the family, friends and individuals affected by the lack of any sort of protections for Idaho’s gay and transgender communities.

Organizers for the Add the Words sticky note campaign had strong hopes of the bill’s passage this year based on surveys and strong bipartisan support for the measure.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee voted last month not to print the bill, and despite the renewal of hope with potential sponsors of the bill on the house side, House Speaker Lawerence Denney indicated to a group of reporters last week that he doesn’t intend to give  the measure a hearing.

According to the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell, during a press conference on Tuesday Denney said, “I have not seen a bill, and I don’t think that there is any change in support on the House side.” Asked what he meant by that – a change from what – Denney said, “From  not hearing it. I think that was always the position on the House side.”

Denney also told reporters that, despite a high profile media campaign as well as six years of volunteers trying to get the legislation passed, he had not yet seen the bill.

Organizer Mistie Tolman tells the Idaho Agenda, “Add the Words is surprised that Denney says he has never seen the bill and never intended to give it a hearing.”

Supporters of the legislation say they feel that lawmakers are simply ignoring the plight of Idaho’s LGBT community. Several lawmakers have acknowledged that they know that harassment and discrimination occurs in Idaho but have thus far not taken any steps to fix the problem.

Thursday’s vigil will be held from 8:00-9:00 pm on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. “It is time to gather together with signs and FLASHLIGHTS and let the Idaho Lawmakers know that their failure to hear the Idaho Human Rights Act amendment bill, for yet another year, was UNACCEPTABLE,” says a Facebook Event page.

Organizers are hoping the event will send a message to lawmakers that by ignoring the legislation they have also ignored the voices and wishes of hundreds of voters throughout the state.

Click HERE to learn more about the vigil.

Arrogance Untethered: Idaho House Speaker Isn’t Planning on “Add the Words” Hearing

Despite having support from thousands of voters across the state, House Speaker Lawerence Denney indicated to a group of reporters on Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to give a bill that would help curb discrimination against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender individuals a hearing.

Supporters are hoping to have the bill introduced in the House after a Senate committee voted not to print the bill last month.

The Boise Weekly reported last Friday that,”Boise Democratic Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb and Twin Falls Republican Rep. Leon Smith are poised to submit a new version of the proposed legislation, presumably this time in the Idaho House.”

According to the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell, during a press conference on Tuesday Denney said, “I have not seen a bill, and I don’t think that there is any change in support on the House side.” Asked what he meant by that – a change from what – Denney said, “From  not hearing it. I think that was always the position on the House side.”

Denney also told reporters that he had not yet seen the bill.

Despite Denney’s comments, organizers continue to point to the dire need for the legislation in Idaho. They are asking supporters from across the state to respectfully contact key Representatives and request that the bill be heard.

There will also be a comedy show on Tuesday, March 13th in Boise to benefit the Add the Words effort. According to a Facebook event page the night of comedy will be”Hosted by Matt Bragg with performances from Jen Adams, Mundek Clement-Stein, Dylan Hughes, Olek Szewczyk, Josh Adams, Ryan Noack and Mikey Pullman.”

The event will be held at Liquid, located at 405 S. 8th Street in Boise from 8-11 pm.

The cost is $5.00.

The key house lawmakers are as follows:

Representative Thomas F. Loertscher, TLoertsc@house.idaho.gov
Representative Max C. Black, MBlack@house.idaho.gov
Representative Eric Anderson, EAnderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Ken Andrus, KAndrus@house.idaho.gov
Representative Carlos Bilbao, CBilbao@house.idaho.gov
Representative Lynn M. Luker, LLuker@house.idaho.gov
Representative Erik Simpson, ESimpson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Frank N. Henderson, FHenderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Jim Guthrie, http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactmembersform.cfm?ID=1179

Children Outside Gender Norms At Higher Risk For Abuse; Mental Problems

Two recent studies show that children who display characteristics outside of gender norms or who identify as transgender are more likely to be abused and/or attempt suicide than those who don’t thanks to stereotypes and other factors.

According to The USA Today, a study published online Monday in Pediatrics by the Harvard School of Public Health, children who display non-conforming characteristics before the age of 11 ,”on average, are more likely to experience physical, psychological and sexual abuse and experience post-traumatic stress disorder by early adulthood.”

“Non-conforming girls were at 60% greater risk for sexual abuse than conforming girls, but non-conforming boys were at nearly three times greater risk compared with conforming boys,” reports the paper.

Lead study author Andrea Roberts tells the USA Today,”85% of gender-non-conforming children in the study were heterosexual in adulthood. In childhood, however, those who were not “extremely typical in their gender expression” faced “harmful discrimination and intolerance that has a lasting impact.”

Meanwhile, The Advocate reports in a separate study conducted by the Endocrine Division at Children’s Hospital Boston that “young people who can’t reconcile their gender identity with their physical bodies had high rates of psychiatric complications, especially if they aren’t guided by health professionals.”

“The Children’s Hospital study looked at 97 patients and found 20% self-harmed, while 37% were on psychiatric medications,” reports the magazine.

Discrimination, the lack of insurance coverage for hormones and transgender procedures, “as well as the disconnect between gender identity and the physical self,” are all contributing factors.

According to a 2010 study performed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once in their lives.

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