Yesterday, 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”
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.
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.
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