We’re more than a month and a half into the 2016 session of Idaho’s legislature. By this point in last year’s session, dozens of protesters had been arrested. They wanted lawmakers to pass a bill making it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The year before saw similar protests but this year they’ve been largely absent.
Nicole LeFavour, one of the leaders of the Add the Words movement says it’s because a group of senators has been meeting to craft a bill that could get bipartisan support.
“Always the protests have been a last resort,” LeFavour says. “They’ve been what we’ve done when lawmakers refused to say anything or do anything to indicate to the people of the state that discrimination is wrong.”
Brent Hill is a Republican from Rexburg and President Pro Tempore of Idaho’s Senate. Hill says even though the 2016 legislative session is roughly half over, there is still time to pass a bill to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment for gay, lesbian and transgender Idahoans.
But he doesn’t know if it would pass. Hill says the bill will be a compromise and there’s a chance everyone will hate it.
“It does give the LGBT community a great deal of what they have been after,” Hill says. “But on the other side it also gives some exemptions, particularly for churches, for religiously operated schools. It just comes to a matter of whether each side is willing to give the other side something that they want as well.”
Hill says he doesn’t know yet when this bill might be released for all lawmakers and the public to see. LeFavour, who is a former state senator herself, says she’s not privy to the negotiations but from talking with senators who are, she’s cautiously optimistic there will be a bill she and other Add the Words activists can support this session.
“Our great hope is that we don’t face what would be a bill that would do more harm than good,” LeFavour says. “You don’t want to see a bill that focuses on how people can discriminate.”
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