Human Rights Commission

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Idaho Late to the Party to Celebrate Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted By on Sun, Jan 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM


While Idaho and the nation prepares for the Monday, Jan. 20 celebration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, it's important to take note that Idaho was late to the party. In fact, the Gem State was among the last states in the nation to honor Dr. King.

The official national holiday was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, but it wasn't until 1990 that then-Idaho Gov.r Cecil Andrus signed legislation making Idaho the 47th state to recognize an official King state holiday.

But the designation didn't come until after a string of Idaho lawmakers who argued against giving another paid holiday to state employees and questioning the importance of Dr. King.

Ultimately, in an effort to pacify legislators opposed to the King honor, it was decided that the third Monday of January would be known as "Idaho Human Rights Day."

All county, state, federal and most city offices will be closed Monday, but the Idaho Legislature will be in session.

ValleyRide city buses will run on normal schedules.

Post offices and most banks will be closed.

Honors for Dr. King will begin as early as 9 a.m. on Monday when families are invited to Boise State's Student Union Building Jordan Ballroom for a poster-making party. Attendees will then march up Capitol Blvd. for a rally on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse. That's where they'll hear Rev. Happy Watkins from New Hope Baptist Church in Spokane, Wash., recite Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Meanwhile, inside the Statehouse the Idaho Human Rights Commission will host a ceremony on the second floor of the Capitol rotunda. Music will be performed by the Common Ground Community Chorus. Lt. Gov. Brad Little is expected to participate.

Dr. Jill Gill, professor of history at Boise State, will be the main speaker at the Statehouse ceremony.

"I'll be specifically pointing to this year being the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Gill told Boise Weekly. "It was a critical watershed."

And when Boise Weekly asked Gill if her remarks might make some state officials uncomfortable, she said "yes."

"I'm going to tell the historical story, but history isn't just about the old, dusty days. This is about how history shapes our present," said Gill. "Today, we hear discussions about states' rights and how they bump up against things like immigration, gay marriage and medicaid expansion. I listen to that, and when I look back at 1964, I recognize that this was the story back then, too."

Gill said there will definitely be a "take away" from her address on Monday.

"There is absolutely going to be a call to action," she said. "I think about all of this as a historian, but I have to ask, 'What's the purpose here? Why should this matter?'"

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Idaho Human Rights Commission's big but

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:45 PM

The Idaho Human Rights Commission voted Monday night not to back protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people being proposed for the Idaho Human Rights Act.

After two years of supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation in Idaho’s Human Rights Act, the Commission, with some new members, voted not to support legislation amending its charter.

Commission President Estella Zamora said she was disappointed and saddened at the vote.
“I believe that people need to be protected in their work, in their housing and in their business dealings, as any other human being,” Zamora said.

The Commission voted 5-4 not to support a bill that would amend the Human Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The act currently protects people from people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age (40 and over) and disability.

“I’m very very disappointed because that is our role as a commission, we’re a human rights agency,” Zamora said. “If the legislature approves this then it would be included in the Human Rights Act and we would have to enforce it.”

Emilie Jackson-Edney, a co-convener of the group Idaho Equality, one of several organizations pushing the amendment, said that the Commission does good work for many, but that the vote perpetuates blatant discrimination against LGBT people.

“To have a board of commissioners who wouldn’t support human rights for everyone in this state is just unconscionable to me, it just doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

Commission Vice President Hyong Pak of Twin Falls, Daniel Boston and Andrea Wassner of Boise joined Zamora in supporting the measure. Megan Ronk of Boise, Vernon Baker of St. Maries, Ruthie Johnson of Hayden Lake, Brian Scigliano of Boise and Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls voted not to support the amendment. Opponents cited fears the workplace protections would lead to gay marriage or leave the state open to law suits. 

Reached at her office, Ronk said her vote did not reflect the issue of discrimination.

“From my perspective I didn’t believe that it was the role of the Commission to introduce policy, it seems to me that’s the role of the legislature,” Ronk said.

Asked whether gays and lesbians are discriminated against in Idaho, Ronk replied: “I’m sure there are circumstances where that does occur but that was not the question that was brought up before the commission last night.”

Jackson-Edney said that Ronk raised the jurisdiction issue and that an attorney assured her it was within the Commission’s purview to advise the Legislature on human rights policy.

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