Add The Words Supporters Seek to Educate, Collaborate With Lawmakers

Feb 2, 2013

(L to R) Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, Add The Words Co-chair Mistie Tolman, and Rep. Grant Burgoyne announced the Feb. 6 panel discussion.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Supporters of an effort to add the words "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act will try again this year to get lawmakers on board. Draft legislation surfaced Friday that would protect against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

A similar effort to "Add the Words," failed in a Senate committee last year. Now advocates are focused on education and collaboration before they formally introduce the bill.

Mistie Tolman is with the Add the Words Campaign. Tolman says most Idahoans want protections for gay and transgendered people, but many don’t understand how an amendment to the Idaho Human Rights Act would work. She’s optimistic a panel discussion next week will inform lawmakers and the public.

“This is about a renewed effort of collaboration and cooperation, one that hadn’t really existed before," Tolman says. "And one that does give us a lot of hope.”  

Panelists will include members of the business and religious communities.

Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb are prepared to sponsor the legislation this session. But Buckner-Webb acknowledges this year’s strategy is a change.

“One of the things we’ve learned around this body in the last couple of years is that the dialogue is absolutely critical," Buckner-Webb says. "To listen, to listen, to listen and then to make those efforts to collaborate. But the listening is the first step.”    

Wednesday’s panel discussion will be open to the public, but Buckner-Webb says it will not focus on the personal stories of LGBT Idahoans. Instead, panelists will talk about the economic and social impact of passing an amendment.

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