Add the Words: reflections from a distance


This past week has been an emotional one for friends in Idaho. A proposed piece of legislation that would add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the State’s Human Rights Act was the center of legislative news. Many of my friends attended hearings and some offered testimony to the committee in support of this action. The hope of its supporters is that by codifying the statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity would protect the LGBT community from discrimination. Opponents of the proposed legislation, including Idaho’s governor, cite a vote on marriage a number of years ago by voters opposing a change in the State Constitution as evidence that such a measure should not be approved.

The legislature is in session and the Add the Words measure was re-introduced for the ninth time. The difference this year is the measure was granted a public hearing. More than two days of testimony from the citizens of Idaho: some for, some against the measure were held this week. According to reports from local news sources and posts by friends, the number of persons speaking in support of Adding the Words were far more than the number of persons speaking against it. Some arguments were strong, others weak. Some who testified shared powerfully personal stories and others passionately quoted the Bible. Still when it came time to vote in committee, the measure was defeated. As one friend reported, committee members voted along party lines.

I cannot add more or new information to support the addition of these words or to change what these legislators heard. I appreciate the willingness of elected officials to allow a hearing and I recognize the principle of majority rule when it comes to process. What is difficult to understand is how elected representatives would ignore the voices of so many who pled for the addition of four words in making their decision.

I recently moved from Idaho to Michigan and was unable to attend or participate in these hearings. I still have many Gem State friends and an emotional bond to the state and I am disappointed that once again the campaign to Add the Words will fall on deaf ears. I know that a day will arrive when these words are added.

In the meantime, I encourage Idaho voters to live as if the words were already in place.  If they aren’t going to be printed as a part of the State’s Human Rights Act, then make them a part of your personal Human Rights Act.  Live as if protections for persons regardless of skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity are already a vital part of the Human Rights Act. Even though the specific language is not codified, there is absolutely…again; absolutely nothing that prevents caring Idaho citizens from putting the words into practice. Live each day in the marketplace as though the words are already statute; if a baker is afraid of being taken to court over a wedding cake, then avoid that merchant on other days too. If a business engages in unfair employment practices, then boycott the services of that business. If a church preaches condemnation, find a place of worship where all are welcomed.

It is time to add the words but unfortunately once again they will not be a part of the proposals moving forward. Just don’t let this setback prevent the right thing from happening. As one of the great preaching quotes says, “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words.”

Add the words, Idaho; and if not in print make it happen by your actions!


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