Mistie Tolman: It’s past time for Idaho to ‘Add the Words’

GUEST OPINION: LGBT RIGHTS

January 11, 2014 

  • ‘ADD THE WORDS’ RALLY TODAY IN BOISE

    Jazz singer-songwriter Curtis Stigers will perform at a Statehouse rally at 1 p.m. Saturday aimed at building support to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the anti-discrimination provisions in the Idaho Human Rights Act. Proponents have been pressing lawmakers for eight years to expand the 1969 law and in October won key support from the law’s author, former Republican Gov. Phil Batt.

    Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, and Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, are among the Idaho leaders scheduled to speak at the rally. Learn more at facebook.com/addthewords.

On Nov. 27th, the Statesman ran a column (“Reader's View: Creating human rights laws for all proclivities is not the answer”) stating that anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation are unnecessary. As an alternative, the columnist recommended practicing the Golden Rule.

While we completely agree that the Golden Rule is a good principle to live your life by, we also agree with 97 of the Fortune 100 largest companies that banning discrimination based on sexual orientation is good business.

We agree with the 87 percent of Idaho voters who believe that people should not have to worry about losing their job due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, especially in these tough economic times.

We agree with the cities of Sandpoint, Boise, Ketchum, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Moscow, and Coeur d’Alene that the government has a responsibility to ensure that all of our citizens are protected from unfair discrimination.

Both in Idaho and across the country, there is a strong consensus among businesses, voters, and municipal leaders that allowing any type of discrimination puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Here in the state, Hewlett-Packard and Albertsons, among dozens of other companies, have included sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. It’s not only necessary to respect individual workers; it’s part of their core business strategy.

LGBT Idahoans are our friends, neighbors, and members of our families. They contribute to the economic health of Idaho, earn a living, and want to be able to provide for their families, just like everyone else.

Until we Add the Words, LGBT Idahoans are at serious risk of losing their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love. In fact, until we Add the Words every Idahoan is at risk — because we all have our own sexual orientations and we all have our own gender identities.

So we applaud the columnist’s belief in the Golden Rule. In fact, adding non-discrimination laws is a perfect representation of the rule.

We wouldn’t want to be discriminated against — so it makes perfect sense to make sure no one else is discriminated against either. What’s more golden than that?

As we have for seven legislative sessions, we urge the Legislature in 2014 to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. It’s past time for our state to reflect the values of its residents, businesses, and community leaders.

Mistie Tolman lives in Meridian and wrote this editorial on behalf of Add the Words; Hannah Brass Greer, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest; Monica Hopkins, ACLU of Idaho; Krista Perry, Idaho Safe Schools Coalition; Kris Hermanns, Pride Foundation; Pastor Barbara Nixon, Hillview United Methodist Church; and Marci Glass, minister of Southminster Presbyterian Church.

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