A committee in the Idaho House Thursday rejected a gay rights measure known as the “Add the Words bill” on a 13-4 party line vote.
During 21 hours of public testimony, gay and trans people told stories of discrimination, harassment, and violence in Idaho. Republican Rep. Linden Bateman of Idaho Falls said he was genuinely moved by what he heard.
“And I know from this point on -- forever -- I will be kinder and I will be more compassionate to those who bear a heavy burden,” Bateman said.
But Bateman and fellow Republicans ultimately voted down the bill 13-4, with the Democrats in favor.
Before the vote, committee chair Thomas Loertscher of Iona called on Idahoans to “stop the cruelty” but he said kindness can’t be legislated. Republicans worried that in trying to outlaw discrimination, the bill would force religious-minded florists, bakers, photographers and others to violate their convictions about homosexuality or face lawsuits for refusing gay customers.
Rep. Vito Barbieri of Dalton Gardens cited other concerns about provisions guaranteeing protections for transgender people. He said predators could use the law as a cover to enter public restrooms and locker rooms. Nampa Republican Brent Crane, who’d made a campaign promise not to support the bill, said the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were not clearly defined.
Many gay rights supporters were in tears as they left the auditorium. Add the Words organizer Ty Carson said it was hard to accept the vote after nine years of fighting to get the bill heard.
“Right now for me it will be a lot of breathing and trying to understand how those people can not want to be leaders and not want to lead this state to a better place,” Carson said.
Several lawmakers said they could support a compromise bill in the future if these issues are resolved.