Twin Falls and Lewiston are the latest cities in Idaho to take steps to prohibit discrimination for hiring of city jobs based on a person’s sexual preference or identity.
In meetings in both cities Dec. 14, city councils approved adding sexual orientation language to existing non-discrimination policies.
Twin Falls Councilwoman Rebecca Mills Sojka said adding the language sends an important message to the community about fairness.
“The important thing for me is as a city is to say plainly that we include that status as a status that we don’t discriminate against,” she said.
The Lewiston City Council voted 5-2 to outlaw discrimination in hiring of city jobs, while leaders in Twin Falls voted 5-2 to add sexual orientation to the city’s anti-harassment and discrimination policy.
Those cities now join Boise, Sandpoint, Caldwell and other communities to adopt some kind of policies preventing discrimination based on a person’s sexual preference or orientation. Measures passed by leaders on Boise and Sandpoint are broader than the versions adopted by Lewiston and Twin Falls.
For example, Boise’s law, which took effect Jan. 1, criminalizes discrimination in employment, housing and public places because of sexual preference, but includes an exemption for churches and private organizations.
Officials in Pocatello are considering a similar broad prohibition and other cities like Ketchum are considering adding language on sexual orientation.
The recent flurry of action on the local level comes nearly a year after state lawmakers rejected a bill to ban workplace and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Idaho’s Human Rights Act now forbids discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin and mental or physical disabilities, but state lawmakers have turned back efforts every year since 2007 to include people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.
Despite approval in Lewiston and Twin Falls, some elected officials questioned the need to expand the definition of those protected by existing city policy.
“Where do we draw the line?” said Twin Falls Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins. “If we start specifying sexual orientation, what happens with the next group, and they come along and they want to be included?”
Twin Falls Vice Mayor Don Hall said the city’s anti-discrimination policy should already provide enough protection.
“We don’t believe in discrimination, period,” he said. “To me this is more of an exercise in political correctness than anything.”