This morning the Idaho legislature made a little history. On this day when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to print the first piece of legislation to mention sexual orientation, and to propose ending centuries of discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, education and public accommodation.
Leslie Goddard, director of the Human Rights Commission beautifully presented the bill after an introduction by Senator Tim Corder, a major sponsor or the legislation. Some may remember the Mountain Home Republican Senator from a City Club debate in 2006 or from his past vote to ban gay marriage in Idaho’s Constitution. His support of this year’s legislation speaks loudly to the fundamental fairness implicit in the issue of employment discrimination and to the progress made on understanding of these issues over the years.
Nothing, except giving thanks to those who vote well, is more important than dedicating ourselves to having positive, gentle interactions with legislators who are still on the road to understanding these issues and voting as we would wish. I will never fault a community frustrated with waiting so many long years to see a day when we can not be fired from our jobs solely because we are gay. Still, I hope it is well noted that Senator Little was one of the majority voting yes in support this morning, the man who bravely helped hold off the Constitutional Amendment for two years before bowing to extremely intense political pressure. Again his vote speaks to the importance of patience and how different and fundamental this issue is from marriage which so unfortunately intersects with church and religion.
In what I hope will help bolster a budding coalition of conservatives and moderates, the BSU public policy survey this year found that 63% or Idahoans feel it should be illegal to fire someone just because they are or are perceived to be gay, that was a majority in every region of the state and both political parties. Clearly those numbers take this out of the realm of being election year issue and show that basic fairness crosses all kinds of political lines. Who today doesn’t know someone affected by this issue? In fact, how many legislators still do not have a family member or friend who is touched by what we deliberate today?
Yes votes (note some legislators were absent): Sen Pro Tem Robert Geddes, Committee Chair Curt McKenzie, Senator Joe Steger, Senator Brad Little, Senator Kate Kelly, Senator Clint Stennett