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Idaho: 32 gay rights activists jailed in ‘Add the 4 Words’ protest

Protesters block the entrance to the Idaho Senate on Thursday
Protesters block the entrance to the Idaho Senate on Thursday
Credit: Anna Daly / KTVB

Gay rights activists made a stand at the state Capitol in Boise, Idaho on Thursday, and that stand had consequences as a protest pressuring lawmakers into backing anti-discrimination protections resulted in the arrests of 32 gay rights activists according to a report by the Associated Press on Feb. 20.

The activists protested by creating an hour-long Senate blockade in an action that followed a previous protest that took place back on Feb. 3 urging lawmakers to add four words to the Idaho Human Rights Act that currently bans workplace and housing discrimination based on race, gender or religion.

Left out, however, are the key words gay rights supporters are key for members of the gay community in protection against discrimination. Those four words - sexual orientation and gender equality – alienate the LGBT community in Idaho by being omitted.

So far GOP lawmakers have refused to hold a hearing on adding those words. As a result activists feel the only communication to be heard is through action. Thursday’s protest resulted in 32 arrests throughout the day and 25 of those 32 were cited for misdemeanor trespassing after 4 p.m. after posting themselves outside Senate chambers for more than 6 hours.

After they refused to move, they were arrested and transported to Ada County Jail in Boise. According to former State Sen. Nicole LeFavour, Idaho’s first openly gay lawmaker, the actions of the last two protests where a result of Republicans refusing to consider the grievances of the LGBT community. She feels this also serves as a tactic approval of violence and discrimination committed against gay people across the state of Idaho.

“Senators have remained silence while people have been beaten in alleyways,” she said, as she was one of the first protesters arrested.

Thursday’s misdemeanor battery citation was the result of a complaint filed by Senate Sergeant at Arms Sarah Jane McDonald who said a male protester pushed through her arms as demonstrators rushed down the stairs of an area reserved for lawmakers to let other protesters in.

Before the session, protesters were warned that their refusal to vacate could lead to potential safety and fire hazard.

The protests were expected as lawmakers have already forbade same-sex marriage rights of couples legally married in other states and there was also a bill introduced similar to the one that passed the House in Arizona, protecting religious people’s rights to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers.

Four couples are currently suing the state to overturn the 2006 same-sex marriage ban. The fight in Idaho seems to just be beginning and with the actions presented with the last two protests, gay rights supporters in Idaho won’t be backing down until their voices and rights are heard.

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