by Andrew Crisp
Before Democratic lawmakers reintroduce a bill that would add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's Human Rights Act, they plan to host a panel discussion to open a dialogue with the measure's opponents.
Last year, a similar measure failed to move forward in a Republican-controlled Senate committee along a party-line vote.
"One of the things I'm concerned may have slowed some of the progress is these are new concepts to many people," said Boise Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb. "'Gender identity,' 'sexual orientation,' those are things that didn't exist in our vernacular when the Idaho Human Rights Act was put in place."
Joined by Mistie Tolman, leader of the Add the Words campaign, and Boise Rep. Grant Burgoyne, the trio announced plans to hold a panel discussion on the IHRA, offering a moderated forum for Idaho lawmakers and citizens to ask any questions.
"I think you'll be able to hear from a broad base of communities and get opinions that are different," said Buckner-Webb. "It's the first of many steps, I'm sure, to get that dialogue going."
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, in the Senate Auditorium at the Idaho State Capitol, Dr. David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy, will facilitate a panel discussion to help legislators and the public understand the IHRA and discuss the proposed changes.
Panelists will include:
-Pam Parks, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Human Rights.
-Maryanne Jordan, Boise City Council president.
-Rev. Marci Glass, a pastor with Southminster Presbyterian Church.
-Kevin Settles, Idaho business owner.
-John Reuter, former Sandpoint City Council president.
"We view this as an issue of basic justice, and we're committed to moving this effort forward this session," said Burgoyne.
He said although the legislation gained some ground by getting a print hearing last session, there is still a ways to go.
Buckner-Webb said the panel's objectives include providing visitors awareness, information, education, better understanding, new perspectives and to come away with questions.
"New confusion," she said. "That's what happens when you start an exploration. But it might be an exploration that people might not have been willing to do before."