Shortly before the Idaho Senate adjourned Tuesday evening, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, cautioned senators to secure their office areas before leaving, saying an individual had been found hiding in a closet in the Senate lounge directly behind the chamber.
That individual was former Boise Sen. Nicole LeFavour, who has been arrested a half-dozen times this session in protests at the state Capitol pressing to "Add the Words," the catch-phrase for amending Idaho's Human Rights Act to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's anti-discrimination provisions. The change has been proposed every year for the past eight years, but has never had a full committee hearing.
"Closets are never safe for gay or transgender people," LeFavour told The Spokesman-Review.
LeFavour, who was Idaho's first openly gay state lawmaker and served four terms before leaving the Senate to run for Congress in 2012, said she had been in the closet between five and six hours. The closet is used to store coats and other items on shelves.
"It's a very large closet," she said. "There are lots of people in closets out there, and they're not comfortable."
Davis said the Senate was at ease when LeFavour was discovered late Tuesday afternoon, while staffers were looking for some items in the closet.
"I have no idea how long she was there," Davis said. "She was asked to leave."
Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, was the one who asked LeFavour to leave.
"It seemed to me that there was some initial reluctance, but there was compliance," Davis said.
Former senators are allowed in the Senate chambers, even during sessions. During an earlier demonstration, the Senate had to suspend the rule granting floor privileges to former members before LeFavour, who was standing in the chamber and refusing to leave, could be removed.
LeFavour has led "Add the Words" demonstrations throughout the session, in which people stand with their hands over their mouths signifying that they haven't been heard.
"The lives of gay and transgender people do matter to thousands of us," she said, "and every time one of us is standing hand over mouth somewhere, it is a message of love to somebody else who is scared, somewhere in Idaho."