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Discrimination is bad for business

I’m glad that Idaho lawmakers are finally taking animal cruelty seriously.

Now I wish they could show that level of regard for members of their own species: Gays, lesbians, and transgendered people who are being denied the basic right of job, education, and housing security.

It seems as though stories about this issue are all over the press at the moment. Just last week, a jury threw the book at a 19-year-old Rutgers University student who used his webcam to spy on his gay roommate and tweeted about it to his friends. He was convicted of a hate crime and could go to prison as a result.

Earlier this month, Minnesota’s largest school district reached an agreement with the federal government over anti-gay bullying. The district was being investigated for civil rights violations.

Idaho’s a little behind in this respect. In February, the Senate Affairs Committee killed a human rights bill for gays, lesbians and transgendered people without giving it so much as a hearing.

Our upcoming elections might have something to do with the unanimous vote not to introduce the bill, which was sponsored by Sens. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, and Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, among others.

The bill would have protected gay, lesbians and transgendered people from discrimination in areas including housing, education, and employment by adding the words “sexual orientation, gender identity” to existing civil rights law. Idaho law already provides those protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The lawmakers who wouldn’t even allow the bill a hearing in the committee explained that gay rights measures just aren’t part of their culture.

Poor explanation. Like it or not, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people really are a part of our culture – yes, here in Idaho. They work with us and pay taxes just like we do. They have family and friends who care about them.

When you try to deny that, you’re doing more than just hurting the people who face discrimination. You’re making it more difficult for everyone who is trying to build Idaho into a world-class economy that can compete with its neighbors, with other states across the country, and with other countries around the world.

While we’re pouring time, money and energy into improving our math and science education and attracting good jobs and good workers to the state, we’re simultaneously sending a clear signal to a large group of people: Stay away.

Anyone who belongs to a minority group, or who just cares about living in a community that values human rights, is going to see the action by State Affairs that way.

Idaho’s already trying to carve out an identity for itself that goes beyond the traditional potato and overrides the white supremacist image that we can’t seem to shake.

For this year, the damage is done. A panel of nine lawmakers has decided for all of us to send a signal that Idaho doesn’t think an entire class of people deserves protection from discrimination.

When it comes to human rights changes in Idaho, there’s a history of things taking a long time. But eventually, change does come around. Let’s hope next year we have a panel of lawmakers alert enough to realize that acknowledging and respecting gays, lesbians and transgendered people doesn’t just make life better for those people – it positions Idaho to move ahead in the modern world.

About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.

5 comments

  1. I’m normally a “live and let live” sort of guy, and think folks ought to generally just get along and let one another be. That’s how I live and that’s why I generally support your column. But its just never quite that simple, is it? Because that means you have to let EVERYBODY be who they are, and not discriminate against them, right? Or not? Sure, it seems clear the law should protect LGBT folks from housing and job discrimination–that’s just the way they were born right? But what if their “behavior” is such that you find their lifestyle objectionable, or even repugnant? What if our Christian friend cannot possibly live with himself knowing–because the gay couple he has rented a house to rub it in his face day after day–what is happening under his rental roof? Again, my disposition is such that I would let such things go, but what if I had a rental house and a KKK member wanted to rent it? Or a Nazi? And their behavior, while legal, was so in your face that it made me sick? What should MY right be then? I’m just sayin these issues are not quite so cut and dry and folks would like to believe. Life is complicated, and what’s good for the goose, may be good for the gander, whether he likes it or not…. Later.

  2. Kudos, Anne, and thank you for your courage in calling bigotry what it is.
    I would keep commenting but JGD said it best. :)

  3. Thank you for a well-reasoned article. It is very much appreciated.

  4. Thank you, Ms. Wallace for an insightful article. I think it’s important to note that our LGBT friends are law-abiding, tax-paying, and productive members of society.

    Juke – your comments (while I agree on your position on friendly discourse) are short-sighted, and you’re not doing yourself any favors invoking your faith and what you believe is right and wrong in the public domain. Everyone needs and deserves to be protected equally under the law. For someone who believes the teachings of the bible, you seem to have forgotten the golden rule.

  5. If I understand your article correctly, it is ok to be Gay, Lebian or Transgendered; and this way of life is acceptable conduct & it is a non-choice way of life. If that truely is your feelings, then I must respectivly disagree with you. Thank GOD we have the United States of America that allows 2 or more people to air their views openly without retrobution. I believe in the Holy Bibles teachings. Most moden minded people now believe in what they see & feel in this fallen world, & just go along with day to day things tring hard not to make any waves along the way. Why stop at Gays, Lesbians & Transgendered; why not add the folks that are just living together in the same household. Maybe we should automatically add any & all people that come across our boarders that work here in the United States. Bottom line is that it is Wrong & we can’t afford all this even if we wanted too. Idaho is not behind anything or anyone. We choose to beieve in GOD & keep a balanced budget as best as possible. (I’m not saying we don’t make mistakes. We do.) But please don’t think of Idahoans as backward or behind in some way because we don’t go along with the rest of the Union.