Idaho ‘Add the Words’ nondiscrimination bill dies in committee

Days after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a news conference saying it favors nondiscrimination laws, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted 13-4 Thursday morning to defeat a bill that would have added the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights Act. The vote fell along party lines.

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, made the successful motion to block the bill.

“We have come a long way. I think this very hearing has brought us a long, long way,” Andrus told tearful supporters of the bill gathered at the Capitol. “Do not despair. Your concerns are legitimate, very legitimate, and people in Idaho and in the Legislature have heard you and are hearing you.”

But, he added, “We have to be very careful how we make those rules and today my feeling is that this is not the rule that addresses the whole picture.”

The vote came after 21 hours of testimony, which began on Monday.

“I know what it’s like to walk in fear and uncertainty,” bill sponsor Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, said. “I know what it’s like to face the fear of being treated with disdain and to be diminished. I know the energy it takes to constantly be on guard. I stand before you today compelled to call out for the right that some in their privilege continue to take for granted.”

State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said cruelty has no place in society, but as an overweight man for most of his life he understood living with discrimination, but he could not support the legislation as written.

“I am calling on people everywhere to get over themselves and to get past it,” he said.

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