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Meridian becomes 14th Idaho city to ban LGBTQ discrimination

Boise Pride Fest 2018. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was banned in Boise in 2012 and now in Meridian. Photo by Fiona Montagne.

The city of Meridian is the latest municipality in the state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Idaho’s Legislature has so far refused to pass a bill that would add such protections to the state’s human rights act. But since 2011, 14 cities have taken action.

Sandpoint was the first city to add protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the city rulebook, and Boise passed a similar ordinance in 2012.

After four hours of sometimes tearful testimony from advocates and opponents on Tuesday, the Meridian City Council voted 4-2 to add the protections.

Violators of the ordinance could face an infraction and a $250 fine.

Boise’s ordinance comes with a stiffer penalty: A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Opponents of the ordinance said it could put religious businesses at risk or that it represented government overreach.

Resident Casey J. Minshew told the council that “conservative values are one reason Meridian is a great place to raise families.”

Mark Bryan, senior pastor at Harvest Church, said the ordinance would grant “special rights” to some rather than equal rights for all.

Advocates said the ordinance would improve safety and send a message to young people about their value.

Carolyn Blackhurst, a Sunday school teacher and youth group leader, said she and her family moved to Meridian from Boise in 1999.

“I have had so many kids share with me their fear and their hurt they have experienced because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Blackhurst said through tears. “I have met kids who are suicidal … By adopting this non-discrimination ordinance the city of Meridian is sending a clear message of inclusivity.”

Kathy Griesmyer, the policy director for the ACLU of Idaho, said the ordinance “strikes a good balance between religious freedoms and protecting gay and transgender folks who live in Meridian.”

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