by Andrew Crisp
After thousands rallied across the state in support of adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho’s Civil Rights Act and Human Rights Act, the Senate State Affairs Committee took up the issue this morning, and quickly shot it down.
Sponsored by Pocatello Democrat Sen. Edgar Malepeai, the measure was designed to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.
“There’s obviously a lot of people interested in the issues we have,” Nampa Republican Sen. and Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie addressed the crowd, numbering in the hundreds. “With print hearings, we don’t take public testimony. But for every person who signs in, and continues to sign it, that becomes part of our record.”
Malepeai was the sole person testifying on behalf of the bill, and in the hushed committee room, his emotions were evident as he cleared his throat and fought back tears.
“We owe it to those who know and love their gay family members and friends to take this issue seriously and allow them to speak of the harm they see being done in Idaho each day, with the voice of the state saying it is wrong,” said Sen. Malepeai. “As you can see, Mr. Chairman, I’m a little bit emotional about this issue.”
However, the committee failed to print the routing slip, effectively killing the bill. The vote was on strictly party lines. The crowd's response was a collective gasp. As the senators who voted nay exited the room, supporters rushed to the front to put sticky notes on the committee's desk.
Out in the hallway, supporters with "Add the Words, Idaho" T-shirts covered their mouths, and tearfully sang in unison a spontaneous rendition of "We shall Overcome."
Here was the vote:
Aye: Sen. Edgar Malepeai, Sen. Michelle Stennett (both Democrats)
Nay: Sen. Curt McKenzie, Sen. Russell Fulcher, Sen. Bart Davis, Sen. John McGee, Sen. Chuck Winder, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge.