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Sen. Nicole LeFavour at the door of the Idaho State Senate chamber on February 3 shortly before she was arrested (Idaho Statesman)
Living in Idaho is a challenge for the less conservatively minded. It’s as red as it gets, and the trends we’ve seen in other states like Wisconsin -- blaming the problems of the country on teachers and other public employees -- are rock solid to the point of fossilization. In the annual report card on public education,  Idaho's state rank is among the lowest in the nation. But these problems pale in comparison to the treatment of LGBT citizens of all ages. As the Idaho Statesman reported, this reached an ugly head in Boise around 11:00 am on Monday:
Frustrated after eight years of rejection, a group of Add the Words supporters blocked the entrance to the Idaho State Senate chamber at the Capitol in Boise Monday morning. The group members, standing in silence and wearing matching black T-shirts, said they were prepared to be arrested.

“We are here to insist the Idaho Legislature finally add four words, 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity,' to Idaho’s Human Rights Act to prevent the suicides, beatings, loss of jobs, evictions and the fear that too many gay and transgender Idahoans live with every day," the group said in a news release. "We do this for those who live in fear and those who may despair this year if no one speaks for them."

Various figures were given throughout Monday for how many protesters were involved, but Idaho State Police said they arrested 44 people and cited each for trespassing.

Idaho’s fine GOP legislators were so bent on doing nothing, that they suspended rules that allow former state congressmen on the state floor. In fact, the arrests began with former state Senator Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise) for protest in support of adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act. This proposal has come to be known as Add the Words, since as the story in the Idaho Statesman indicates, it boils down to simply adding four words to the current act. (To learn more, check out the story.)

You might say, well, if individual communities cared enough to pass their own ordinance designed to protect LGBT Idahoans, while the stance of the state GOP legislators might suck, at least you could underscore the protection of these people - men, women, children, the elderly – in individual localities. Taxpayers, no less. Well, after such anti-discrimination ordinances had been passed in six Idaho communities, in their compassion and great wisdom, last June the Idaho GOP proposed making local human rights and anti-discrimination ordinances illegal across the state. Now, that’s unshrinking commitment to the reputed Republican ideal of no government interference if I’ve ever seen one!

After news of the debacle in Boise got out on Monday, a petition was started to let Idaho legislators know just how much gay and transgender Idahoans and their supporters in the state and the rest of the country want the Four Words added to Idaho’s Human Rights Act without further delay. This will make it clear that LGBT Idahoans have the same rights as everyone else, and that their rights won’t be trampled on any longer if the state has anything to say about it. The state they have been paying taxes to their whole lives.

Please check out the petition and sign it. Despite GOP opposition to adding the words (and, let's not forget, the arrests Monday), in less than a day-and-a-half the petition is verging on 5000 signatures. The petition will run for a week. Despite the attempts to gag Idaho’s LGBT citizens, and their families, loved ones, and supporters, with everyone’s help a very hefty rejection of the privileging of intolerance and bigotry will be set at the feet of the Idaho legislature and Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter. (Yes, a governor named “Butch” does not support the Four Words, although for the life of me I don’t know why.) One of the reasons they can get away with blocking this overdue amendment to the state’s Human Rights Act is the insular atmosphere of the state. With only 1.6 million residents, Idaho’s deep-red GOP core thinks that what it says goes, no matter how wrong or unpopular. Time to end their designation of people as second-class citizens based on their sexual orientation and gender identity once and for all.  

Maybe adding these four banned words is a step toward general improvement of education in Idaho, beyond a needed lesson on how all of Idaho’s citizens should be treated? Only time will tell.

Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 10:27 AM PT: The petition has been going almost exactly 2 days and there are now 6255 signatures.

Thu Feb 06, 2014 at  3:38 PM PT: Boise criminal defense attorney Dan Skinner is giving pro-bono counsel to the arrested Add the Words protesters, and has organized 10 other attorneys to do the same.

Fri Feb 07, 2014 at  5:42 AM PT: As of this morning, in 2 and a half days the petition has gotten 7100 signatures.

Originally posted to esessis on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 07:57 PM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People and Community Spotlight.

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