Senate leader: "We do not plan" to "add the words" this year

Posted at 6:19 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 20:19:09-05

BOISE — Idaho's leader in the Senate is saying the "Add the Words" effort is once again unlikely to happen in 2019.

Senator Brent Hill, a Republican from Rexburg and the Idaho Senate Pro Tempore, released a letter to media on Wednesday.

"For the past four years, lawmakers from both political parties have worked with citizens and other interested groups to find a resolution," Hill's letter reads. "Most of us have concluded that if this impasse is to be resolved, the only viable solution is a balanced approach—one that will provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation while simultaneously safeguarding the right to fully exercise religious convictions. We all have much in common. Many LGBT people are deeply religious and have no desire to threaten the religious beliefs of others. And true believers in almost all religious denominations condemn intolerance and discrimination. It is not that we are on opposite sides, but that we are fellow human beings seeking to follow the Divine admonition to love one another."

This is part of the reasoning that Hill cites as why the legislature will likely not hear the legislation this year. It's the 14th consecutive year of trying to make that piece of legislation happen, according to longtime advocate for adding the words and current State Director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, Mistie Tolman.

Tolman released a statement in response to Hill, citing his comment that 'people need more time' and saying the issue goes beyond religious freedom.

"Freedom of religion is already guaranteed in the Idaho State Constitution and protected under the Idaho Human Rights Act," Tolman said. "The truth is that ‘some people’ do not believe every person deserves the freedom to live and work in their community without the fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are or who they love. In 2019, this should not still be up for debate. The Idaho legislature must provide the same non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people that are provided for everyone else, without delay or excuse.”

The issue of adding the words "gender identity and sexual orientation" to Idaho's Human Rights Act has been a contentious one in recent years. Some protests have led to citations of activists in favor of the legislation with charges of trespassing, including former Boise Democratic Senator Nicole LeFavour.