#AddtheWords, bisexual, Brent Crane, Elaine Smith, freedom, gay, HB2, human rights, Idaho, John McCrostie, Ken Andrus Linden Bateman, lesbian, LGBT, Loertscher, Melissa Wintrow, Paulette Jordan, Pete Nielson, sexual orientation, transgender, Vito Barbieri
Despite 21 hours of testimony on Idaho House Bill 2, which would add the words, “gender equality, sexual preference” to already existing human rights legislation, the State Affairs Committee steadfastly refused to pass the bill on to the full House for consideration. Of the 154 brave souls who stood before the committee, 102 testified in favor of passage, 51 opposed, and one couldn’t make up his mind.
The committee, comprised of 13 Republicans (this IS Idaho) and 4 Democrats, voted straight down the party line. Notable comments during the discussion preceding the vote:
Rep Ken Andrus (R): (is he related to Cece?) Made the initial motion to hold the bill in committee (thus killing it for this session). Hundreds of thousands of his constituents had emailed him their fear for their religious freedoms should this bill be passed. Note: Both a reading of the bill and testimony of civil rights attorneys verified that the bill excludes religious organizations from compliance with human rights rules pertinent to this legislation. Representative Andrus stated that to you of “the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (sic)community, we do not feel that we discriminate against you. We have to address both sides of this issue and make rules that protect ALL of the people.”
Linden Bateman (R): the doddering geezer who stumbled off to the bathroom every 30 minutes during testimony: “After hearing all of your stories, I will be kinder and more compassionate, but I support the initial motion (to kill the bill).”
Brent J. Crane (R): (with an outspoken pledge to oppose any such legislation) “Definitions matter!” Mr. Crane is worried about the 50 some gender categories listed on Facebook. He is worried that the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender will be expanded to include pedophiles and rapists—even though that claim was refuted by expert legal testimony.
Vito Barbieri (R):“I have been utterly moved to compassion in hearing your stories. Persecution, violence, and abuse needs to stop. BUT, this bill does not change behavior. By using this amendment as a sword rather than a shield, we force good people to accept deviant behavior against their own personal values.” He went on to expound upon the Gay Agenda and the possibility that this amendment would open the doors to sexual predators. Yada, yada. For some reason Representative Barbieri failed to hear the stories of sexual predation that happen routinely and with impunity to this marginalized community.
Pete Nielson (R): (perhaps the most disjointed and frightening comments spoken by any of the committee members) This geezer rambled on for about 15 minutes about how his papa taught him to dance with the ugly girls too, because then other people would ask them to dance. But, of course, he could not support this bill. “We must all practice kindness and forgiveness.”
Chairman Thomas F. Loertscher: (he did an admirable job of trying to run the meeting with equanimity and dignity) He expounded upon his youth and the discrimination he suffered (and still suffers) from being fat. He learned to deal with it. “We have all been changed in our hearts by this hearing,” he claimed. He called upon all the people of this great state to “stop the cruelty,” BUT, he could not accept the financial cost ramifications of this bill. “This is just not the right bill to correct the problem.”
Despite pleas from all four Democratic members of the committee to at least pass the bill on up to the full House for a hearing (minus a committee recommendation), roll was called after an hour of debate. Not one Republican could see fit to allow the bill a hearing by the larger body. The infamous 13 ruled over the the four voices of reason.
If “Leadership is about reasoning in difficult times,” as Melissa Wintrow (D) said, leadership does not exist in Idaho. And as Paulette Jordan (D) quoted from her Native American WWII war hero father, “America is not free until we are all free.”
I came late to this party. I invested only about 16 hours of my life in the hearings. Like so many of us, I tend to take a back seat to issues that don’t personally affect me. But I have reached a time in my life where I have nothing to lose but my own sanity. I must prepare myself for future battles. The people most affected by this decision have worked for nine years just to get the bill heard. They were devastated by the outcome, but they will regroup. As a friend commented as we sat braced for the bad news: Eventually this legislation will pass. These guys can go down in history as a bunch of stubborn old goats who stood in the way of progress, or they can shine as beacons of light in a dark time.
I will remember who the goats are and who the beacons of light are. I won’t sit by quietly allowing goats to rule in future elections and debates.
My gratitude and deepest respect go to Representatives Elaine Smith, Paulette Jordan, John McCrostie, and Melissa Wintrow, and to the 102 brave souls who stood before us all, sharing their life stories, their pain, their fear, their humility. I will have your back and go down with you.