by April Foster
Over 1,000 Idahoans stood on the steps of the State Capitol Saturday to deliver a clear message to state lawmakers: They want Idaho lawmakers to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
For the last five years, the Idaho Legislature has refused to grant a hearing on the proposed amendment, which would grant LGBT Idahoans basic protections in employment, housing and education. So this year, volunteers with the Add the Words campaign organized a statewide day of action to push for the legislation. Rallies were held in over 10 Idaho cities on Saturday.
“We are completely blown away by the outpouring of support that we received today,” said Mistie Tolman, spokeswoman for Add the Words. “We had at least three times as much people here as we did last year. I don’t know how the legislators can ignore us any longer. I think this will send a really big message that it’s time to add the words.”
Speakers at the event included Marisol Cervantes, the president of Borah High’s Gay-Straight Alliance; local transgender advocate and mentor, Drew Weston; and State Representative Cherie Buckner-Webb, who reminisced on the similarities between Saturday’s event and the rallies held in support of Idaho’s 1969 Civil Rights legislation.
Tolman shared what she said was some positive news to the crowd: On Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 8 a.m., an Add the Words bill will get a print hearing in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee. She called on the audience to fill the committee room so that its standing-room only.
After the speeches, State Sen. Nicole LeFavour invited the large crowd into the Capitol to place sticky notes along the chamber and hallway doors. The audience obliged, and hundreds of LGBT communities members, their friends and family, entered the building and filled its doors with notes calling upon lawmakers to add the words.