Adding the Words: What We Agree On

Add the 4 Words protest January 2017 Idaho State Capitol.
Add the Words Idaho Legislature. Say discrimination against gay and transgender people is wrong.

The first amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom of religion is one which I and other advocates for Add the Words respect deeply. We respect it every bit as much as Idaho legislative leaders do.

Out of this respect, some of us have agreed and have a willingness to make clear in the bill, to spell out and reiterate the exact nature of first amendment rights as they relate to the inclusion of gay and transgender people in Idaho’s human rights act. Most notable is number 5 which assures business owners that they can not be compelled to produce speech (as in writing on a cake or printing on a t-shirt. I myself for example would never make a racist t-shirt if I owned a t-shirt shop.) This is a fundamental first amendment right. In fact, recently, higher courts appear to agree with what the language in number 5 below states.

Yes, we agree, a business must bake a cake or sell a t-shirt, but that business does not have to write on a product a message that’s different in meaning from what they would write on a product for any other customer.

The language below is what we have proposed could be included in the Idaho Human Rights Act at the addition of the enumerated classes “sexual orientation, gender identity.” The act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodation, meaning business and government services.

The inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in this act

1. Affirms the individual religious liberties guaranteed under the provisions of the Idaho Human Rights Act, federal law the U.S. Constitution as well as other sections of Idaho code

2. Affirms the rights of churches and clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages on church grounds or as a part of activities organized by a 501c3 religious organization

3. Affirms the rights of clergy and church staff in performance of their religious duties as part of a 501c3 religious organization, to refuse solemnize any marriage or to refuse to participate in or celebrate any marriage or union

4. Affirms the right of business owners to refuse to provide products, accessories, decorations or other items not otherwise produced, included, or offered for sale to other customers by that proprietor’s businesses

5. Affirms the first amendment rights of individual business owners, including the right to refuse to customize products or produce individually tailored services if the entire product, decoration of the product, or service itself is written or verbal speech which differs substantively in content rather than in context, from that produced or made available by the business to other customers

6. Affirms the rights of business owners to establish standards of dress if the standards do not otherwise violate this act and are applied equally to all employees, with the exception of persons with disabilities needing accommodation or those exercising their rights to religious or other expression as established by federal law and the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution

We Are Not Utah. We Are Idaho.

Add the Four Words protest Judy Cross and Ty Carson end of legislative session 2014Yesterday, after another year of work asking Idaho legislative leaders to include gay and transgender people in Idaho’s longstanding and well tested nondiscrimination laws, I received the following letter from Senate Leader Brent Hill on behalf of himself, Senate Leaders and Governor Otter:

 

It was titled: “Thanks”

Dear Nicole,
Thank you for the note. I appreciate your desire to work something out on legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that is still respectful of religious rights and freedoms. Please understand, though, that “public accommodations” are not on the table. If you are interested in a balanced approach resembling Utah’s compromise, I would be happy to visit, but, as I have already indicated, feedback I am getting from my colleagues clearly indicates that there is not sufficient support in either the House or the Senate to advance even a Utah-style solution.

Again, if you and your associates want to help advance legislation not addressing public accommodations and similar to Utah’s, I would be happy to work with you to see if we could garnish enough support to give it a try. Anything more aggressive on your part is not achievable.

Sincerely,

Brent

 

This is my response:

Senator Hill and Senators Davis, Winder and Governor Otter,
I am surprised by and do not understand your answer. I have asked over and over to understand why you are comfortable with the idea of Idahoans working next to gay and transgender people or renting housing to us, but will not ensure that people sell us groceries, serve us food, pump gasoline, fix our broken cars or repair our washing machines. Why is public accommodation like this unacceptable to you? I’m mystified to hear you four state leaders –whom I consider compassionate, humane people– I’m mystified to hear you insist that gay and transgender people are not human enough to be fully included in our state human rights act.
Do you see us as deserving of the daily humiliation of being turned away from businesses in communities across the state?
Do you not care that young people, especially in small communities, will simply continue to despair knowing this humiliation awaits them, even after the brutality of high school?
I don’t understand. I thought better of all of you.
I also think you grossly misunderstand the will of the body, in both the house and senate. A majority are waiting for your lead in somehow solving this problem. Because of Senator Lakey’s fundamental lack of openness on this issue, using him to conduct a head count is a grave error. Many members have gay and transgender children, siblings, friends and family they feel should live with a greater sense of security and the liberty to work hard, support their families and do business in their own communities and the state they love. You will never know or see this because of the way you approach this issue with them.
I will publicly respond taking the Utah bill point by point to show why we in Idaho would never want legislation like that in our state. Not only did it set back Utah cities in the protections they had been able to afford to hard working citizens of their communities, but language included in it essentially destroyed the very protections it pretended to extend. I think you all, including Senator Davis, respect my intelligence more than to think I would ever agree to harm the very people I am trying to save from lives of uncertainty and loss.
I think you understand that attitudes which set us apart as lesser, as undeserving of the protections extended to other classes of humans, simply reinforce the idea that we are deserving of hate and violence. And you must know by now that we do face hate and violence.
This is not a proud day for our state. Not a proud time. I gave you years of work, language to place within public accommodation to genuinely try to address concerns and solve the problems you were willing to share, and yet that is not enough? And after asking again and again to understand what further in public accommodation remains a problem, you still won’t answer?
I am saddened beyond belief by your failure to show compassion, your failure to be willing to stand up and say what is right and what is wrong. I am saddened that instead you would like to write into law a lessening of our humanity, a trojan horse of kindness to save face for yourselves.
This is a sad day but perhaps a necessary one. I have honestly defended each of you to the good people of this state. I am done with that role. I am done having faith in the hearts of each of you.
…nicole
Former Senator
Nicole LeFavour
You can send a letter to your legislators explaining the harm done when they again fail at passing legislation to fully include gay and transgender people in Idaho’s non discrimination laws. Persuade them it is time and that we need their support in moving Senate leaders to finally add the words.  includeusidaho.org