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Add the Words legislation proposed as 'personal bill' in its 14th consecutive attempt at passing

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 00:18:43-05

BOISE, Idaho — Thirteen Idaho cities including Boise and Meridian have passed local ordinances to add the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

But after 13 years of trying -- and failing -- to get this bill passed at the statewide level (largely due to lack of Republican support), Senator Maryanne Jordan (D-Boise) is now leading the effort once again -- but this time with a different type of bill.

This year, Jordan is proposing Add the Words legislation as a personal bill. Add the Words has only been taken into a committee once before, and it died there; but personal bills allow lawmakers to skip a committee hearing to have their draft printed as a bill.

Personal bills are often used by legislators to make statements on issues. They tend to be more rare -- but they also rarely pass.

"My hope is that it will be different, my fear is that it won't, but at the end of the day we bring this bill to highlight the importance of the need for these protections, and we just simply will not let it be ignored," said Jordan.

Again this year, members of the LGBTQ+ community are speaking out about the discrimination they feel they're susceptible to without the words added to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

"In Idaho, we have same-gender marriage now in this country. So you can get married on a Saturday, you can go to work on a Monday, and put photographs of your wedding on your desk, and you can be fired because of who you are," said Emilie Jackson-Edney, LGBTQ+ community activist.

The Idaho Human Rights Act protects certain groups from workplace or housing discrimination, as well as discrimination within public accommodation spaces like restaurants, venues, and taxis. It currently contains language protecting discrimination on the basis of age, disability, religion, sex, retaliation, and race/national origin.

Many Republican lawmakers say they feel the word "sex" should be enough, and also say they worry about religious freedoms, and the bill infringing on business owner's rights to hire who they want.

Jordan says she hopes this year's Add the Words will see more success as a personal bill, but we'll keep you updated.