Idaho Falls seventh city in Idaho to consider anti-discrimination ordianance


IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The city of Idaho Falls could become the seventh in the state to enact an ordinance banning discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender.

The Post Register reports the city council is working on a draft ordinance and collecting public comment on the issue.

But if a group of Republican lawmakers has their way, all such rules would be invalidated. The Idaho Republican Party Central Committee will consider a resolution Saturday that would call for the Legislature to enact a law rendering any city anti-discrimination ordinances unenforceable.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Press-Tribune reports that a Caldwell woman has created the LGBTA Democratic Caucus to advance gay rights and to find political leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.

In 2012, state lawmakers rejected a bill that would have added the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, banning discrimination based on a person’s orientation or gender in jobs, housing, educational opportunities and public accommodations.

During the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, refused to hold a formal hearing on the matter because he didn’t think another vote would have a different result, though lawmakers did agree to hear a presentation from advocates in favor of adding protections to the Human Rights Act.

After lawmakers voted down the bill in 2012, cities across the state began looking at creating their own anti-discrimination ordinances. Sandpoint was the first to make the change, and the northern Idaho city was later joined by Boise, Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello.

During a Thursday night work session in Idaho Falls on the issue, resident Dino Lowrey told council members that when she tells people she’s from Idaho, the overwhelming response is: “You’re from the Aryan nation state?”

That perception needs to change, she said, and the council can do it by passing an anti-discrimination rule.

But as in other cities, dissenters voiced concerns. Pastor Todd Wood of Berean Baptist Church told the council that he worried that an anti-discrimination ordinance could force some to violate their conscience.

“If a Christian in Idaho Falls regards homosexuality as a sin, what business would you recommend for him or her to start if they think enforcing this ordinance would be a violation of their conscience?” Wood said.

Councilwoman Sharon Perry said she’d like to have the ordinance wrapped up by Labor Day, but she hopes public comment will continue until the final vote.

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Cities’ anti-discrimination ordinances aren’t sitting well with some in the Republican Party. The Coeur d’Alene Press reported that GOP central committees in Bonner County and Idaho County submitted nearly identical resolutions for the state committee to adopt, both calling for the state to enact a law making the cities’ anti-discrimination rules unenforceable.

Bjorn Handeen, a Kootenai County state committeeman, sits on the state central committee’s resolution committee. He said that committee will debate each of the resolutions on Saturday and decide which to recommend for adoption by the state party.

“Still, I would imagine that anything we pass will have little to no effect anyway,” he said, adding that passage of a resolution carries as much weight as making an official statement.

However, he said, if the anti-discrimination resolutions are passed the party will send a letter to the legislature requesting the legislation.

“We make a lot of effort at the grassroots level, but in the end we have very little impact,” he said. “There are a lot of discouraged people who put in the effort on these issues, but we rarely see any results.”

In the southwestern Idaho city of Caldwell, Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln is working to change lawmakers’ opinions on anti-discrimination policies by changing lawmakers. Gaona-Lincoln helped create the LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Idaho, which launched May 20. The “A” in the name stands for Allies, she said.

“It’s long overdue,” Gaona-Lincoln said. “I think it’s time for Idaho to have something established, and the Democratic Party has taken the position it has and is ready to support our cause.”

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