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Gay Rights Efforts Gain Traction In Idaho Small Towns

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

Efforts to pass more local gay rights laws are moving ahead in Idaho. A city councilor in Coeur d'Alene plans to introduce an ordinance later this month. And in Pocatello, a failed ban on discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people is getting a second chance.

The first attempt in the southeast Idaho town of Pocatello raised fears about religious liberty and the possibility of men using the law to harass women in public restrooms. A representative of a conservative D.C. law center even flew to Idaho for a series of meetings with the mayor and city council members.

So it was back to the drawing board.

But Pocatello staff attorney Kirk Bybee says it now appears the city council has reached a compromise. “It's hard to judge, but it looks to me like the mayor has the votes to get it passed.”

The latest version of the ordinance aims to clarify religious exemptions and those for small businesses. And it adds a provision saying people must use the restroom associated with the gender on their driver's license.

So far, four Idaho cities have passed ordinances to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: Boise, Ketchum, Moscow and Sandpoint.