Marilyn Shuler, longtime Idaho human rights activist, died Feb. 3. Leaders across Idaho have lauded her as “an absolute giant in the fight for human rights,” “a hero,” “a guiding light for human rights,” “a champion for basic decency,” “our moral compass in the ongoing fight to ensure that all people are treated with respect, dignity and compassion.”
What a tribute to an incredible woman who accomplished so much and made such a difference for so many. Marilyn learned early about discrimination and basic human rights — from her father’s example of helping African-American students get jobs to her own childhood experience living with polio, and the resulting isolation and discrimination she experienced.
In her 20-year career as director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission and through numerous community commitments, Marilyn stood up against injustice wherever and whenever she saw it — whether based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. She worked tirelessly and relentlessly on behalf of others. Her calls for change often came before others even comprehended the need. Her strong response to injustice won her wide acclaim among policymakers, regardless of politics, and the admiration and love from all who believe in social justice. She received honors and awards too numerous to mention — for her distinguished service and her commitment to human rights. Marilyn co-founded the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, one of few sites in the world where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on public display, and she helped to dismantle the Aryan Nations complex in North Idaho.
Let us now honor this woman, for who she was, all she accomplished, and her moral code. Let us move forward in her honor to stand up for what she believed in so strongly — adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act. Marilyn believed we have a moral responsibility to update this act, ensuring protection for all Idahoans, including our gay and transgender neighbors, from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
In one of her friend’s words, “Marilyn taught all of us to lead the good fight for equality and against discrimination.” One of her final requests was that each of us do our part in all our interactions to stand up for what is right, what is inclusive and what is respectful of all people. Let us now all do our part to honor this request. And it is time for our state elected officials to do their part and Add the Words. What better legacy and tribute to Marilyn.
Also supporting this call to the Idaho Legislature to follow Marilyn Shuler’s example: Add the Words; United Vision for Idaho; United Action for Idaho; Wassmuth Center for Human Rights; Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations; ACLU of Idaho; Pride Foundation; Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii; Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence; International Rescue Committee; DisAbility Rights Idaho; Church Women United So. Idaho, and many other organizations.
Joyce Harvey-Morgan, of Boise, counted Marilyn Shuler as a close friend.