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Add the Words to Kick Off This Year's Push for LGBT Equality With 'Activist Academy'

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KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
If there's a lesson to be learned from the Women's March on Idaho, it's that political engagement in the Gem State is on the rise.

The Add the Words Campaign, in conjunction with United Vision for Idaho and ACLU-Idaho, has created an activist academy to give would-be advocates the skills they need to be politically successful.

The training session, slated for Saturday, Jan. 28, will cover topics like identifying injustice and privilege, and communicating with lawmakers. The event, which runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Idaho Capitol, is part of Add the Words' project of educating people about legal prejudices against members of the LGBT community, defending social and political gains, and pushing for legislation to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's human rights law.

"That's been pretty steadily the game plan. Education in the last two years has increased significantly," said Add the Words spokesperson Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln.

Academy attendees will participate in a "privilege workshop"—a five-minute exercise designed to help participants understand unacknowledged privileges and learn talking points for engaging with legislators.

No bill has yet been introduced in the current Idaho Legislature that would "add the words" or update the state's malicious harassment law—Idaho's version of a hate crime law—to include crimes committed against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, but Gaona-Lincoln said it's possible one could appear this year.

In 2015, a bill to include "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's human rights law appeared in the House State Affairs Committee. It was voted down in a 13-4 party-line vote. Since then, the Add the Words movement has focused on educating the public about the human cost of not adding legal protections for LGBT people.

"People still don't understand what rights are absent for Idahoans. Only 12 cities in Idaho are covered right now," Gaona-Lincoln said, referring to municipal nondiscrimination ordinances. "That's a patchwork quilt of equality. It's sad."

The activist academy will postpone the traditional Add the Words demonstration, which draws crowds of hundreds of supporters of LGBT rights to the Capitol each January. According to Gaona-Lincoln, an Add the Words rally could take place on a yet-to-be-determined date in March.

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