Hundreds of people gathered at the Idaho State Capitol building Jan. 16 to urge lawmakers to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's 1960s-era human rights law.
DW Wyona Trantham is a transgender model who addressed the Idaho House State Affairs Committee during the 2015 legislative session's historic public hearing on a bill that would have "added the words." During the Jan. 16 rally, she spoke about how when the committee voted against forwarding the bill to the Idaho House of Representatives, it "compromised" LGBT rights.
"The officials I rely on to keep me safe denied me the rights I deserved," she said.
In the crowd, Vernon Ray, a member of the Ada County Light Foot Militia, held a sign that read, "Only a self-loathing homosexual would vote against adding the four words." He said he attended the rally because his sister is a lesbian and as a militiaman, he has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which he said protects anyone's right to housing, employment and public accommodations.
"A person's sexual orientation means nothing to me," Ray said. "If you're so infatuated with someone else's sexuality, that's self loathing."
Not everyone at the rally was there in support of LGBT rights, however.
"We're here proclaiming the gospel," said Josiah, a member of a group of counter demonstrators. "Americans used to have respect for God's law... [homosexuality] was something that was tucked back into the shadows, where it should be." Josiah—who carried a sign stating "Jesus says: Repent, and believe in the Gospel"—said adding "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the human rights law corrodes society by undermining God's law, which he said is fixed.
"The harm of moral relativism is, it makes morals relative to me," he said.
Nearby, a woman wearing an Add the Words button staged a counter-counter demonstration of her own. Carolyn Blackhurst apologized "for people who have been hurt on behalf of the 'church.'" She said the nearby counter-demonstrators were getting Jesus' message all wrong.
"It's a misrepresentation of what the bible says," she said.
Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) was one of the members of the Idaho House of Representatives who served on the House State Affairs Committee when it heard public testimony on the Add the Words bill. Speaking to the crowd, she commended those who testified in favor of the bill, and commiserated with their disappointment that the committee voted not to forward it to the full House.
"Even in the face of hateful statements, I was humbled by your compassion," she said.
In a wide-ranging speech that took aim at "lawless marauders"—occupiers of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon—anti-Islamic rhetoric, police violence and unsatisfactory social programs and health care for the poor, Wintrow discussed meeting with legislative leaders to discuss a potential bill that could provide some LGBT protections. She told the audience she wouldn't support any bill that expands LGBT rights and protections by half measures.
"I will not compromise on legislation that treats human rights like a cafeteria menu," she said.