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Idaho ‘Add the Words’ gay rights activists sentenced for peaceful protests

Monday, July 21, 2014
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John Miller, APAbout two dozen protesters seeking to convince Idaho lawmakers to add discrimination protections for gays and lesbians to the state's Human Rights Act block the entrances to the Idaho Senate in Boise on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. At a similar protest on Feb. 3, 44 demonstrators were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

John Miller, AP
About two dozen protesters seeking to convince Idaho lawmakers to add discrimination protections for gays and lesbians to the state’s Human Rights Act block the entrances to the Idaho Senate in Boise on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. At a similar protest on Feb. 3, 44 demonstrators were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

Updated: 7:00 p.m. MDT

BOISE, Idaho — Nearly two dozen gay-rights activists who were arrested after they blocked doorways in the Idaho Statehouse were sentenced in front of an emotional and packed courtroom in Boise’s 4th District Court.

The 23 defendants took part in peaceful protests during the 2014 legislative session as part of an effort to persuade lawmakers to add legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents in Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

More than half of the protesters had been sentenced as of 5 p.m. Monday. Each protester was given a chance to offer a brief statement before being ordered to pay court costs based on how many times they were arrested while protesting. They also had to participate in community service.

The group, Add the 4 Words Idaho, held multiple protests in the Capitol after lawmakers refused to hold a hearing on the issue. More than 190 arrests were made before the Legislative session ended in March. The four words the group wants to add to the state’s anti-discrimination law are “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

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At times, the courtroom became emotional after attorneys called two mothers who both had a child commit suicide after facing discrimination to speak.

Julie Zicha, who just recently moved from Pocatello, said she became involved in the Add the 4 Words effort after she lost her son in 2012.

Her 19-year-old son Ryan, Zicha said, faced years of housing and employment discrimination while living in Pocatello.

In school, he was physically and verbally abused, she said. After graduation, employers consistently refused to consider him for a job, Zicha said.

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