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Idaho GOP censures city councilman for supporting anti-discrimination law

Idaho GOP censures city councilman for supporting anti-discrimination law

MOSCOW, Idaho — The Latah County, Id., Republican Party has voted to censure its chairman for his vote as a Moscow city councilor supporting an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A small assembly of county Republican precinct committee members voted 7-6 earlier this month to censure Walter Steed for his city Council vote, reported the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Walter Steed

“That policy legitimizes stuff that we don’t agree with, and it forces people who don’t support that kind of behavior to go along with it,” said Gresham Bouma, a committeeman from Viola. “It opens people up to lawsuits that they otherwise wouldn’t be open to.”

The censure follows a no confidence vote against Steed by committee members two months ago after Steed supported a City Council letter to the Idaho Legislature suggesting ways to prevent gun violence, which committee members viewed as an attack on gun ownership rights.

Steed, on vacation in Europe, has the chairman post through May 2014 and has said he will not resign.

“We’re not happy with the way he’s been handling his responsibilities on City Council,” said Committeeman David Klingenberg, who made the motion to censure Steed. “We have to settle for a vote of no confidence or, in this particular case, a vote of censure. It’s the rules, and we’re governed by them. It is frustrating that he doesn’t want to step down, and he seems to feel that a majority of this group is not important.”

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Idaho District 5 Rep. Cindy Agidius (R-Moscow), said she didn’t want to “throw rocks” at the chairman and left the meeting as Klingenberg started to make his motion to censure Steed.

“It’s a religious issue, and it’s going to be very divisive,” Agidius said. “When you start messing with people’s religious views, it can get pretty messy. Personally, I don’t like to discriminate against anybody. I’m interested in what you’re doing and what you’re going to accomplish.”

State lawmakers earlier this year denied a formal hearing on a proposal to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights Act, following similar action from previous years. That has prompted some cities to create their own ordinances.

Moscow, Sandpoint and Boise in the last 15 months have passed anti-discrimination ordinances for sexual orientation. The Pocatello City Council last week narrowly rejected an ordinance intended to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

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