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UPDATE: Add the Words - Round 7

“There are some that wish that this will all just go away. ... That’s isn’t going to happen.”


UPDATE: March 18, 2013

Nampa Republican Sen. Çurt McKenzie announced Monday morning that his State Affairs Committee - of which he is the Chairman - will meet in concert with the House State Affairs Committee March 20 but will not consider a new Add the Words bill.

"It's not going to be a hearing," said McKenzie. "It's just a presentation."

McKenzie said lawmakers will listen to a so-called "informational presentation" on Wednesday, urging legislators to consider adding the words "sexual orientation" and "gender indentity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

McKenzie said he the presentation from Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb will not be followed by any formal public testimony. He also added to opponents would not be allowed to speak on the matter.

ORIGINAL STORY: March 13, 2013

Lawmakers and human-rights advocates hope the seventh time becomes that last time some Idaho legislators say "no" to Add the Words.

Statehouse sources tell Boise Weekly that lawmakers may again take up a proposal to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act in the coming weeks, and if they run out of time in the 2013 legislative session, they'll introduce the measure in early 2014.

A similar effort in 2012 saw activists leaving Post-It notes on Statehouse walls, desks and doors, encouraging lawmakers to "do the right thing," and "add the words." But the effort hit a roadblock when the GOP majority on the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the measure, even denying the public an opportunity to be heard at a public hearing.

Advocates backing this year's effort to amend the state's Human Rights Act say legislators need to hear voices that have never had the chance to be heard before a legislative committee.

"You'll hear a very human voice saying, 'I love my community, I love my family, I want the same opportunities that you have--to work, grow and prosper,'" said Boise Democratic Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, who plans to co-sponsor Add the Words legislation.

"I'm talking about justice--justice for all human beings," said Buckner-Webb "It comes down to personhood. Every individual should be treated justly."

Webb, and co-sponsor Boise Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne, told BW that they're trying to convince 2013 lawmakers to listen to testimony that went unheard in past legislative sessions.

"There are some that wish that this will all just go away and we could all live together without the need for there to be a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," said Burgoyne. "That isn't going to happen."

A December 2011 statewide survey conducted by noted Republican pollster Moore Information, and commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, found majority support for legal protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Some of Idaho's largest cities--Boise, Lewiston, Moscow, Pocatello and Twin Falls, as well as the north Idaho resort town of Sandpoint--have taken up the cause to extend nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Boise City Council members listened for nearly five hours to impassioned testimony in November 2012, largely in favor of a municipal measure to protect workers from gender-identity or sexual-orientation discrimination. Proponents told Boise officials that some citizens were not reporting hate crimes out of fear of outing themselves on the public record, leaving them vulnerable to possible termination and eviction.

"In Boise, an individual can be safe and not worry about losing their job or being denied public services for being gay," said Lisa Perry of the Add the Words campaign. "But just driving down the street to Meridian, they have that concern that they are not in a safe environment. Now we have pockets where individuals are protected and pockets where they are not. It really does fall on the state's shoulders to ensure that everyone is equal under the law."

But opposition isn't remaining silent. A handful of citizens testified against Boise's measure in November, with one saying, "no more Christians would come Boise" if the ordinance was passed.

Burgoyne said he's more than anxious to debate those who are against the Add the Word effort.

"We wish to engage," he said. "We wish to discuss the issue."

The newly revised Add the Words campaign included a Feb. 6 Statehouse panel discussion--which was not a part of any legislative committee--that featured testimony not heard previously at the Idaho Capitol panel. Some participants aligned LGBT equality with the teachings of Jesus Christ, while others promoted Adds the Words legislation as a positive economic impact.

"There's the issue of justice that needs to be addressed," said Burgoyne. "And it's not a question of if this legislation will pass; it's a question of when."