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Gay Rights Advocates: Idaho Bills Would Upend Local Discrimination Bans

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network
File photo. The Pocatello City Council took public comment on an anti-discrimination ordinance in April 2013.

Gay rights advocates say legislation introduced this week in Idaho would undermine local anti-discrimination ordinances passed in seven Idaho cities.

The new bills are aimed protecting religious people from activities they say violate their beliefs.

Republican Idaho lawmakers are responding to incidents elsewhere in the Northwest. A florist in Richland, Wash., faces lawsuits for refusing to do the flowers for a same-sex wedding. In Oregon, investigators found a baker in Gresham who made a similar stand violated the state's civil rights laws.

Idaho doesn't have a state law protecting gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination. But Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Moscow and other towns now have local rules.

Monica Hopkins of the ACLU of Idaho says a new bill that exempts the “exercise of religion” would strip the city ordinances of their power.

“What this change means is people can use their religion to discriminate against people and actually use that as a defense in any litigation that may come from it,” says Hopkins.

A second bill would ensure professionals like doctors, nurses, teachers and counselors would not lose their license for refusing to provide a service to someone on religious grounds.

The bill includes an exception for medical emergencies.