Opinion » Note

Gun Rights and Gay Rights

Two rallies, two visions of America


We're only halfway through January and it's already been a real life-liberty-and-pursuit of happiness-kind of month. Nearly 1,000 people turned out on the Statehouse steps Jan. 11 to demonstrate in favor of adding the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's Human Rights Act.

It's a proposal that lawmakers have said "no" to seven times in recent years, despite polling by Boise State University that suggests more than 60 percent of Idahoans are in favor of formal protections for LGBT people in areas including employment, housing and education. It's also an extension of rights that cities across the state--from Sandpoint to Boise to Pocatello--have embraced.

Only two days later, another crowd assembled in downtown Boise to rally for the protection of rights, though ones they already have. About 200 members and supporters of Idahoans for Liberty, many toting rifles and handguns. convened Jan. 13 on the Grove Plaza for a march to the Capitol, where they reminded legislators of just how important the Second Amendment is to them.

The threats to gun ownership are, to put it lightly, less pressing than the withholding of basic things like access to jobs, housing and education for an entire group of citizens. Lest we forget, Barack Obama is the president who made it legal to carry firearms in national parks and to pack heat in checked baggage aboard Amtrak trains; yet it is still perfectly legal in Idaho to fire someone because you're grossed out by their romantic life.

That said, it's not really fair to rank these issues by relative importance: Gun rights and gay rights exist along the same continuum, and both play a part in fulfilling that old promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness mentioned above. The first time I discharged a firearm I was about 10 years old, blasting soda cans with my great-uncle Wilbur's .410 shotgun. I shook my head at data showing the rate of U.S. private gun ownership at 101 firearms per 100 people--until I counted the number of guns in my own house and came up with six.

Is it my right to own those guns? Absolutely. Do I think that's as important as someone else having the right to secure employment, housing and education regardless of whether they're in a same-sex relationship? Absolutely. Is there a chance that the Idaho Legislature will in any way curtail my gun rights? Not likely. Will it be similarly rights-minded and act on extending basic protections for the LGBT community?