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Civil Rights Panels Urge Inclusion in Wake of Orlando Shooting

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Following the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., advocacy groups and educators gathered in Boise for the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights' Sixth Annual Summer Institute, a series of presentations and panels on human rights. Speakers included leaders of groups advocating and working for the rights and protections of people with disabilities, mental health issues and the LGBT community. In light of the Orlando shooting, many of the conversations about safety and rights of LGBT people took on a heightened urgency.

“The problem that happens when we talk about issues like LGBT rights, is we leave them as issues and forget them as people,” said Dr. Dan Prinzing, executive director of Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, during the Center's Sixth Annual Summer Institute. “We need to put a face, a voice, to these issues because they don’t just concern LGBT rights, they are human rights, issues that we all share in connectedness and humanity.”

For community activist Emilie Jackson-Edney, the Orlando tragedy is representative of what many LGBT people face every day. It reiterated for her how important it is to address marginalization. 

- Left to right: Chelsea Gaona, Dalton Tiegs and Mistie Tolman were on a panel discussing the power of words within the civil rights movement. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Chelsea Gaona, Dalton Tiegs and Mistie Tolman were on a panel discussing the power of words within the civil rights movement.
“There’s a heightened fear and after what happened in Orlando, it seems like something like that can happen here,” Jackson-Edney said as part of a panel discussion about inclusion. 

Jim Baugh, executive director of Disability Rights Idaho, also addressed the importance of acceptance. Baugh, whose son Gabe has cerebal palsy and wore leg braces in his youth, talked about his son's school friends putting on braces like Gabe's and running "Gabe Races" as a way to include Gabe in the fun.

“Inclusion is what happens when everyone participates fully. It involves acceptance,” Baugh said. 

Dalton Tiegs, a Boise State University sophomore and member of the LGBT community, was raised in the Philippines and has often faced systematic marginalization in more ways than one. Having personally experienced the aftermath of colonialization, Tiegs offered yet another perspective on human rights issues, saying Americans must look closer at the root of our fears of terrorism and the privilege of being a world power.

“The irony is the U.S. has caused more harm in the world than the world has caused us,” said Tiegs.

During her remarks, Jackson-Edney warned of the danger of allowing the civil rights movement to fracture along the lines of individual issues.

“If you drive a wedge in a community, you separate its power," Jackson-Edney said. "I don’t want to just be tolerated. I want to be accepted.”