Phil Batt: Again, Idaho turns its back on gay rights

GUEST OPINION: ADD THE WORDS

February 27, 2014 

phil batt, idaho, governor, transportation, government

Phil Batt

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The Idaho Legislature has once again decided to take no action to include sexual orientation under our anti-discrimination statutes. Instead, lawmakers seriously considered state approval of anti-gay incidents if they are done because of religious convictions.

These procedures and the protests generated by them have attracted the attention of major news outlets in large cities and even that of London newspapers.

Idaho leaders have said this is of no interest to present or prospective business opportunities in our state. In my career as a legislative leader and as a governor, I found otherwise. Large Idaho corporations, and particularly Hewlett-Packard and Boise Cascade, were very much concerned about Idaho’s reputation regarding tolerance.

The long presence of practicing Nazis in North Idaho caused negative press coverage of our beloved state worldwide. HP executives and other Idaho businesspeople helped force these scumbags out. However, the main credit goes to North Idaho citizens, who detested their abominable presence.

When an Idaho congresswoman said people of color would not live in North Idaho because it was too cold for them, we got another wave of bad publicity. She recanted her views and our good name was again restored.

Our Idaho executives told me that the state’s reputation is important to their businesses. If it is damaged, sales are hurt. Perhaps more important, it becomes much more difficult to attract outstanding, well-qualified and forward-thinking people to apply for Idaho employment.

Such is the case for a couple of my grandchildren. Max is gay. He attended Boise schools. He felt marginalized and troubled by some of the treatment he received from students and teachers. Ultimately, he dropped out, obtained his GED and moved to San Francisco.

He waited tables and washed dishes until he became a legal California resident. He then obtained a fine arts degree from a leading design school.

Max achieved a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree. Even before he left school, he had several job offers in the computer design field. He accepted one at a high salary plus valuable options. He is now earning considerably more and has had numerous opportunities to advance further.

His sister, Anna, followed him to California, became a resident and entered the higher education system at Cal-Berkeley. She was a great student and was shepherded through her bachelor’s and master’s degrees by professors who took a special interest. She is now pursuing a doctorate degree in biochemistry at the University of Southern California.

These young folks love Idaho and I wish they lived here so that I could see them more. However, they will never make this their home again as long as we maintain our disdain for people who are “different.”

I would like to have somebody explain to me who is going to be harmed by adding the words to our civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination in housing and job opportunities for homosexuals.

Oh, I forgot, that might hurt the feelings of the gay bashers.

Batt is a former governor of Idaho.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service