In early December 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the latest national case involving gay rights, underscoring that the fight for LGBTQ equality remains unfinished. Even as the Court deliberates, equal rights will take a step forward in Idaho with the opening of the Marilyn Shuler Classroom for Human Rights at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, thanks in part to a $6,000 grant from the Seattle-based Pride Foundation.
"What is happening today with the Supreme Court reviewing the case around Masterpiece Cakeshop [and] whether or not LGBTQ people can be given the same service as other people in public accommodations like bakeries is really important, and it's not that different from what happened in the past," said Gunner Scott, director of programs at the Pride Foundation. "Unless we learn history, it's going to repeat itself, and this [classroom] is a way for people to know LGBT history in Idaho."
The covered outdoor classroom, named for celebrated Idaho human rights activist Marilyn Shuler, who died in the spring of 2017, will seat around 30 people and explain human rights in Idaho in a new way, using a touchscreen kiosk loaded with 13 short videos highlighting pivotal moments in Idaho human rights history. Each video will be narrated by someone with ties to the group under discussion.
Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City), one of the first openly gay politicians elected to the Idaho Legislature, will narrate a Pride Foundation-funded video guiding viewers through two notworthy moments in the Idaho LGBTQ fight for equality: the "Boys of Boise" scandal in 1955 and the defeat of Proposition 1 in 1994, when Idahoans rejected a ballot initiative that would have denied minority status to lesbians and gay men.
The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights is overseeing the memorial expansion, and for Dan Prinzing, its director, the ultimate purpose of the new classroom is to ensure no one is left out of a Memorial dedicated to human rights.
"I have a singular goal in this whole project," said Prinzing. "... I want everyone and anyone who steps into the memorial to find themselves."
That may be a hefty task, as according to Boise Parks and Recreation, over 250 people pass through the memorial each day. Much of the space will be closed beginning in January 2018 as construction crews work to install the classroom and shift the Greenbelt entrance closer to the Cabin Literary Center. When construction is finished in April, the memorial will feature new signage, additional quotes on the quote wall and a water feature designed by local artist Ken McCall, known for designing the metal trees outside the Inn at 500 Capitol.
Prinzing said he included the defeat of Proposition 1 in the Pride Foundation-funded video because it shows communities can rise up against injustice.
"It said, 'This is a victory that people can stand up for,'" Prinzing said, "and I think that certainly is an important message now, that people can stand up, can mobilize together to confront hate [and] bigotry."