Add the Words bill likely in 2016

Posted at 2:22 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 16:22:28-05

Ten years after supporters of the LGBT community petitioned for equal rights in Idaho this may be the year the words gender identity and sexual orientation are added to the state's human rights act.

Last year we saw the ground break for the Add the Words movement with three days of public testimony. This year there are rumblings that passable legislation will hit the floor.

The bill to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity failed in the House State Affairs Committee last year. Republican lawmakers had concerns a simple bill would fail to protect the rights of those with closely held religious beliefs. But in the interim, a bipartisan group in the Senate has worked to find a solution.

"We've been diligently working,” said Assistant Minority Leader Cherie Buckner-Webb. “There are a number of iterations of legislation that have been proposed. The two important pieces are meeting the needs of the religious community as well as making sure there is no second class citizenship."

Buckner-Webb, D- Boise, is leading the charge in passing legislation. Though disappointed nothing happened last year, she says the public testimony helped.

"The hearing was absolutely incredible last year,” she said. “I think it was absolutely important for people to hear the voices of those that are impacted as well as those that are concerned about losing certain rights, which i don't believe will happen for anyone if we get this legislation crafted appropriately."

No details are being leaked of what the bill will look like but Buckner-Webb is hopeful a bill will get a hearing and support this year.

A rally in support of adding the words is scheduled to take place on the Statehouse steps Saturday at 2:30. More than 600 are expected to attend.