After being absent from the capitol rotunda for the past couple of years, Add The Words returned Wednesday.
About 100 people crowded the halls at the Idaho Capitol holding signs depicting stories of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
It was a contrast to similar protests in 2015 that ended in the arrests of several activists for blocking entrances to legislative offices.
“We’re coming to the table open, willing and ready to have dialogue with leadership and just making sure that they know this is still on the hearts and minds of community members and their allies across the state,” said Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, chair of Add The Words.
Idaho doesn’t protect against discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to employment, housing or other areas of public policy, though similar protections exist for someone’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
There has been some movement at the local level. Most recently, the city of Meridian included those two categories in its anti-discrimination policy.
Gaona Lincoln says that kind of “patchwork of equality” isn’t a perfect solution to help cover everyone throughout Idaho.
“If we wait for that to happen, city by city, it could take years and years and years, which I am fully acknowledging that the work that we do may impact descendants I may never know, but I’m certainly hoping that we can get something done before that, that’s going to be statewide,” she says.
Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) says he’s been meeting with legislators and advocates to find a deal that doesn’t discriminate against the LGBTQ community or compromise religious freedom.
One of those meetings took place Monday morning, though Hill wouldn’t say what his plan is, but referred to his guiding method as “fairness for all.”
“A one-sided approach will not get through the legislature,” he says, noting that both sides have to give ground for a deal to work.
Hill says it may not come in the form of a bill, but he hopes to present his solution in an undetermined committee in the next two to three weeks.
He specifically said it wouldn’t take the form of Utah’s compromise, which adds protections in housing and employment for the LGBTQ community. However, that agreement doesn’t cover whether a business could choose not to serve a customer, like a florist refusing to provide arrangements for the wedding of a same-sex couple.
“I’m still a firm believer that this can be a win-win for both sides,” Hill says.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Brad Little (R) didn't immediately respond to questions asking if he would actively support a legislative deal.
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