At the Statehouse, elected officials treat advocates for gays as a noisy annoyance, a group to be ignored and dismissed as hastily as possible.
In Sandpoint, elected officials treat these advocates with respect and dignity. Or, in other words, like constituents. Imagine that.
Sandpoint is the first Idaho city to pass an ordinance banning discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And, we hope, not the last. Since the Legislature seems unwilling to take a stand for equality, then its up to city councils to show the compassion and courage lacking at the state level.
As the Spokane Spokesman-Reviews Betsy Russell reports, Pocatello is writing a proposed ordinance, and Boise is looking into the issue. Mayor Dave Bieter has asked the city attorneys office to do some research.
Thats a good first step and it gives this issue of discrimination far more thoughtful consideration than it has received at the Statehouse.
Earlier this year, just as Sandpoints ordinance was going into effect, supporters of anti-discrimination legislation were making a concerted push to lobby lawmakers. The rallying point for the Add the Words campaign was simple and direct: Expand the existing state anti-discrimination law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
But the message was rejected, in about as callous a manner as possible. With nearly 300 people on hand, and within a matter of minutes, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted along party lines to reject the proposal. Republicans on the committee didnt give the issue a public hearing and refused to even allow a bill to be printed, or formally introduced.
While disrespecting the supporters of this legislation, these senators also have dismissed an idea whose time has come.
Similar anti-discrimination policies are common in the Idaho workplace, at companies such as Micron Technology, Albertsons and Hewlett-Packard. While Boise considers a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance, its internal policies prohibit this discrimination within City Hall. Caldwell has a similar workplace policy.
This is the trend.
The Idaho Legislature is wrongly and stubbornly resisting it.
So, perhaps, Idaho needs more Sandpoints. More communities where elected officials have the guts to stand up for their own and do the right thing. And if, in this process, these cities draw more attention to the shame of the Legislatures inaction, then so be it.
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