An Idaho House committee on Thursday
killed a bill that sought to add sexual orientation and gender
identity to the state's Human Rights Act, which prohibits
discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion and national
origin in employment, housing, education and public accommodations.
The Idaho House State Affairs Committee
voted 13-4 along party lines, with Democrats voting in the minority,
to kill the so-called “Add the Words” bill after hearing more
than 20 hours of public testimony over three days.
House Minority Leader John Rusche
called his bill “very simple.”
“It enhances Idaho's freedom,” he
said. “It simply states that sexual orientation, or gender
identity, cannot be used to deny rights and opportunities available
to all Idahoans.”
Republican leaders have resisted
holding a hearing on the proposed legislation for nine years. A
protest at the statehouse last year calling for a hearing ended with
dozens of arrests.
According to the Eye
on Boise blog, supporters outstripped opponents nearly 2.5 to 1,
with 134 people testifying in favor of the bill and 54 against.
Among those testifying was Peter
Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Washington, DC-based
Family Research Council (FRC).
Sprigg warned lawmakers that such laws
“prepare the way for reverse discrimination.”
“The more open homosexuals and
transgendered people become, the more people who hold traditional
values will be forced to conceal their sincerely-held personal
beliefs – or face punishment for expressing them. This has
happened even when an employee's views are expressed outside of work,
and even when no explicit reference is made to sexual orientation or
gender identity,” he testified.