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As gay Idahoans entered 2015 with the legal right to marry they also brace for that right to be undermined at the nation's highest court. Meanwhile LGBTQ people sought the Idaho legislature's protection from discrimination. The so-called "add the words" movement did not win at the state level, but a larger legal victory sealed the right for all Idahoans--and all Americans--to marry in 2015. LGBTQ people and their supporters prepared to capitalize on that victory in Idaho in 2016.

Gay Rights Bill To Get First Hearing In Idaho Legislature

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network
File photo of protesters on the upper level of the rotunda at the Idaho Capitol in March. They put a hand over their mouth to symbolize how they've been 'silenced' by lawmakers.

A gay rights proposal known as the “Add the Words” bill will be heard for the first time in the Idaho legislature.

A committee of the Idaho House voted 6-1 Wednesday to introduce a bill that would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The measure would add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

This is only the first step. It just means the issue will be opened to debate, and that debate will likely be an intense one. Republican leaders have already expressed concerns about how the law would affect religious freedoms.

Representative Brent Crane of Nampa. was the lone dissenter on the panel. Crane told reporters after the vote that he made a campaign promise to protect traditional marriage. He said adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s civil rights laws is a step toward approving of same-sex unions.

“One of the things that is frustrating to people in politics today is someone says something and when the pressure gets on they cave,” Crane said. “And I want the voters of my district to know that the commitment that I made to them is still being honored today.”

Gay marriage is legal in Idaho, though the governor is continuing his court fight against it.

Wednesday’s vote means the issue of discrimination against gays and lesbians will be debated for the first time in the Idaho legislature.

The introduction is farther than the gay rights measure has ever gotten. Ty Carson is part of the group that’s been pushing for a hearing for years.

“And now we need the rest of the legislature to get on board and finally say that it’s wrong to fire, evict and deny people housing,” he said.

Last year dozens of gay rights activists were arrested at the capitol during demonstrations for the bill.


Ten Idaho cities have adopted local gay rights laws:

• Sandpoint
• Boise
• Ketchum
• Coeur d’Alene
• Moscow
• Victor
• Pocatello
• Idaho Falls
• Lewiston
• Driggs