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Idaho House panel advances bill to allow religion-based discrimination

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Updated: 4:00 p.m. MST

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s Capitol on Wednesday was again the focus of frustration among gay rights activists as lawmakers kept alive a bill that Republican religious conservatives argue is necessary to protect businesses from being forced to serve customers whose lifestyles offend their faith traditions.

IdahoThe House State Affairs Committee’s 11-5 vote to send the bill to the floor came two days after 44 gay rights activists were arrested for barring entry to the state Senate.

More than 500 people, nearly all foes of the bill, showed up.

Dozens who testified during the 3 ½ hour hearing said they wanted it killed on the grounds that it enshrines discrimination in Idaho law.

However, Republican lawmakers on the panel said they favored the bill to expand an existing 14-year-old Idaho law, making it tougher to sue people who cite their religious faith for not serving, among others, gay and lesbian customers.

“If a person is being burdened in their free exercise of religion… they should have the ability to raise that as a defense,” said Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise and the sponsor.

Luker contends that his bill is necessary because existing Idaho law only helps protect religious people against lawsuits or claims filed by the government — not if they’re sued by individuals. He cited a lawsuit in New Mexico, where a lesbian couple sued a photographer after she refused to take pictures at their wedding, as an example of what could come to Idaho, if his bill isn’t passed.

All 11 lawmakers behind Luker’s bill were from the majority GOP.

Two Republicans, Reps. Kelly Packer of McCammon and Eric Anderson of Priest Lake, joined three Democrats against the bill.

After Monday’s three-hour Senate blockade — to protest Republicans’ refusal to add protections for gays to the Idaho Human Rights Act — emotions ran high Wednesday, too.

The crowd was so large, security guards turned many people away from the committee room. Some who testified said the bill’s substance recalled an era when many Americans associated Idaho with the Aryan Nations racist compound in Idaho.

“This bill is not only offensive, it is unnecessary,” said Linda Crozier of Boise. “This bill would essentially allow citizens and businesses to discriminate against anyone on the basis of religious freedom.”

Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan feared it could undo strides that communities like hers, along with Coeur d’Alene, Pocatello, Sandpoint, Moscow, Idaho Falls and Ketchum, have made extending local employment and housing protections to gays and lesbians, in the absence of statewide prohibitions.

And Brian Thom, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for Idaho, said Luker’s bill confuses protecting religious freedom with protecting discrimination. “I don’t think that’s true religious freedom,” he said. “That’s religious abuse.”

One Republican on the Idaho committee, Rep. Ken Andrus from Lava Hot Springs, questioned why gays would want to be served by an anti-gay baker, anyway.

“Do you think the cake would be as good if he did it against his will, rather than if he did it of his own free will?” Andrus wondered aloud to Monica Hopkins, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.

“It’s not just the cake bakers,” Hopkins said, contending that Luker’s bill would also protect Christian Identity adherents who may oppose mixed-race couples. “This is the Pandora’s box.”

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49 more reader comments:

  1. hope they dont pass this.. but if the do..it wont stand up in higher courts

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:55pm
  2. So our country was founded on religious freedom but so many “religious” people think that it means everyone is suppose to think the same way they do.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:59pm
  3. What taking them so long

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:03pm
  4. I’m just glad not everyone in Idaho is like him.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:03pm
  5. We heard some awesome testimonies! We have a lot of people supporting us and fighting to get rid of this bill! Luker needs to go!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:23pm
  6. These people would still sell humans if they thought they could get away with it.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:29pm
  7. Shut this discriminatory bill down.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:31pm
  8. It’s actually hundreds not dozens.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:49pm
  9. GOOD!! The more the merrier!!

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 7:12pm
  10. Unfortunately the same thing is passing in Arizona (Senate Bill 1062) without a peep from the Arizona LGBT community. I wish we had a much activism here as Idaho does.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 7:19pm
  11. the problem with man is..it is too damn Religulous…..Imagine,No Religion…ahhhhh,what a wonderful day that will be..and it will be so some century..

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 7:32pm
  12. Legalized discrimination… grrrr

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 10:36pm
  13. Absolutely wrong.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:28pm
  14. the bible these yahoo’s use promote love not hate. Mercy not fear. Yet these yahoo’s preach it is fine to discriminate?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:29pm
  15. wrong

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:29pm
  16. Yes. Let’s pass a law that allows “Religion” to discriminate against Gods people. How Christian.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:29pm
  17. I'm Christian and I'm not like that. I accept and love people for who they are just like all Christians should.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:52pm
  18. Maybe wrong but perhaps a reasonable compromise. There are plenty of churches that are not against same sex marriage!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:30pm
  19. You are so lost!!! Wait until they refuse to serve you because you are old, fat and ugly and do not fit their standards as a religious person.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:34pm
  20. This is not about churches. This is about businesses run by religiously conservative people wanting to discriminate. This is the by-products of corporations being people.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:39pm
  21. disgusting

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:30pm
  22. fuck heads.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:30pm
  23. Hatred and fear are still alive!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:31pm
  24. Sick and disgusting! The testimony today from city leaders, the ACLU, the Idaho Education Association, regular citizens and spiritual leaders was very raw and overwhelming for 3+ hours and we didn’t have a dry eye in the house! I applaud the 5 who voted no!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:33pm
  25. Oh hey, look how well that separation of church and state are going…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:33pm
  26. It’s church doctrine in many cases, but if Catholic’s stop being Catholics, they can be married elsewhere.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:33pm
  27. I can’t wait for the first Islamic individual to be turned down!!! The crusade begins.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:34pm
  28. Come as you are?
    What kind of religion turns people away?
    And Jesus wept.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:34pm
  29. Then my religion does not allow me to serve heterosexual couples

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:35pm
  30. Founding fathers face palm.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:36pm
  31. This country is about to make discrimination legal? Is this really the United States of America?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:36pm
  32. I guess I won’t be buying Idaho potatoes anytime soon.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:37pm
  33. Ugh this country is letting religion have more rights then humans.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:37pm
  34. No way.. and I hope my country won’t do the same.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:40pm
  35. Ok… as a lesbian and daughter of a pentacostal minister and pastor…i want to voice my opinion here… if churches turn us away… so what… we don’t want to worship with hypocrites anyway… and as far as businesses refusing to serve us… lets look on the upside of that… it leaves the door wide open to new businesses to open that are owned by people who will offer services that are inclusive to all… hello… new jobs created. Just my opinion

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:41pm
  36. Un-fracking-believable. Though I shouldn’t be surprised at the lengths “christians” (lower case intended) will go. Hopefully, these are the death throws of a declining and dying cult…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:42pm
  37. sick people

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:42pm
  38. Just sayin… if a bakery advertised “we are proud to serve EVERYONE” and pictured a same sex couple atop a wedding cake… I’m sure we would give them our business over anyone else. Am I the only one thst sees a sea of opertunity here for the sane people in this country?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:45pm
  39. Good thing is this would never survive Court review. Not to mention there will be an injunction before the law even took effect.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:46pm
  40. Wow, so they’re going to follow in the foot steps of other hateful bigots. They’re afraid to stand out and treat human beings equally, sounds like cowards to me. I’m so shocked that discrimination is being allowed in this country. This sickens me to death.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:46pm
  41. Ian Cordner it has nothing to do with gay couples being married in a church if that church is bigoted against gay people. Churches can refuse to marry anyone they want…just like a Catholic church can refuse to marry a Jewish couple or Hindu couple. This legislation is all about allowing Christian businesses that operate in the public square a special right to refuse service to gay people. It is unacceptable and we will fight it.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:46pm
  42. After the news from Arizona today, I truly hope this bill gets killed.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:47pm
  43. So. If I were a business owner and didn’t like Christians, I could discriminate against them? Good to know.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:49pm
  44. Well this country surely isn’t fair

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:51pm
  45. Wow. -_- What happened to Americas freedom? Now someone can bully you and say that their reason is “I’m (insert religion here)”? That’s just not right. When will people become accepting.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:51pm
  46. soit must be true that athiest’s are smarter that christians who hide behind pasters and priest that interpert the 2000 year old bible as teh only factual account of believing as they sit down to eat shellfish,

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:58pm
  47. If your religion promotes discrimination, then how can it promote love?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:04am
  48. So unconstitutional

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:21am
  49. Unconstitutional.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:27am