Idaho Legislature: There is no polite word for prejudice

Here's a draft of our Sunday editorial on the "Add the Words" bill.

The campaign to expand Idaho’s Human Rights Act centered on a straightforward slogan: “Add The Words.”

So now, what words can we add to our description of the 2012 Legislature?

How about callous?

Or dismissive?

Or embarrassing?

All of these words fairly describe the actions of the Senate State Affairs Committee Friday.

On a party-line decision, and without much second thought, the committee rejected a proposal to extend human rights protections to gays, lesbians and transgender Idahoans. This basic, fair step to prevent discrimination in the workplace and the housing market didn’t get a hearing.

In the committee’s narrow view, this proposal didn’t even merit any real consideration. Friday’s hearing was a “print” hearing — when a committee decides whether to “print” a bill. A printed bill becomes a piece of the session’s public record — a document all Idahoans can read and judge for themselves.

Legislative committees sometimes print bills to advance the discussion of an important issue. On Friday, discrimination didn’t make the cut. The State Affairs Committee had neither the time nor the empathy. Committee members couldn’t dismiss this idea or its proponents quickly enough.

Oh, sure, committee chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, moved Friday’s meeting to the Statehouse’s largest meeting room. The better to let supporters have a seat before they were summarily shown the door. The committee didn’t even take public testimony, which McKenzie could easily have allowed.

When it came down to a voice vote, only Democrats Edgar Malepeai of Pocatello and Michelle Stennett of Ketchum voted to print the proposal. McKenzie sat silently (he later said he would have voted to print the bill, had a roll call been requested). But McKenzie didn’t do nearly enough to persuade the other Republicans on his committee: Russ Fulcher of Meridian, Chuck Winder of Boise, Patti Anne Lodge of Huston, John McGee of Caldwell, Bart Davis of Idaho Falls and Brent Hill of Rexburg.

The Republicans’ treatment of this issue was worse than shabby. Consider what McGee told reporters after the meeting. “For me to tell you that (discrimination) doesn’t exist would be naive.”

Let’s forget, for the moment, McGee’s own baggage, and instead concentrate on his comments. Consider what he said as spokesman for the Senate GOP caucus. Discrimination happens. But it isn’t enough of a problem to justify legislation. The solution, he weakly offered, is “continued education.”

Sure. And here’s the lesson from the Senate State Affairs Committee: Employers and landlords, you’re on the honor system. As long as discrimination doesn’t get worse, we’re not going to get involved.

The fact that this lesson came from the state Senate’s most powerful committee — including Hill, Davis, Winder and McGee, the four members of the GOP’s leadership team — is all the more disappointing.

These legislators, perhaps more than most, should be able to see that Friday’s vote puts Idaho on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of a generational change.

The evidence should be all around them. In Olympia, Wash., a bill on the way to Gov. Chris Gregoire would make Washington the nation’s seventh state that recognizes gay marriage. A San Francisco federal appeals court — the court that happens to have jurisdiction over Idaho — rejected California’s voter-passed initiative banning gay marriage.

But that wasn’t even the issue before Senate State Affairs Committee members Friday. Not even close. A 2006 state constitutional amendment bans gay marriage, rendering that issue moot.

The only issue before lawmakers Friday was a simple one: Should Idaho protect Idahoans from being the subject of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity? By refusing to consider the issue, these lawmakers perpetuated prejudice.

Which means that another word can be attached to their actions.

Shameful.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

Shameful indeed

The Legislators apparently think it's OK for LGBTs to be treated as second-class citizens. Nice to know that's their "world view." Doesn't seem too Christ-like to me...

Go Home Legislators!

This session can't end soon enough. Another three - four months of wasted time and our tax dollars while JFAC does everything it can to push the budget through before the Republicants implode during a re-election year. The behavior demonstrated on Friday by McGee, Hill and others is just another reason on a long list for not allowing these clowns to meet every year. Our legislators are spineless, especially these two. It's way past time for biennial sessions Idaho.

frequency of legislative sessions

How about every 10 years?

Yep, good old Republican Red

Yep, good old Republican Red State Idaho - the state where a republican state Senator (McGee) can steal a vehicle, drive drunk, and keep his job in the senate...yet a state worker who happens to be gay could be fired just because he/she is gay. This is a sad day for equality and human rights in Idaho.

You go, Kevin.

Beautifully written. Thank you.

Why would you expect

anything different from this legislature that continues, year after year, without correcting the prejudicial and demeaning words, "-insane, blind, deaf and dumb," in Article X, Section 1, Public Institutions, Constitution Of The State Of Idaho. They would rather concentrate on, "Road Kill Bills," and important matters like that, than deal with offensive and degrading treatment and language of its citizens.

Not only is it "shameful"...........

how about despicable, too?

In all fairness, committees rarely take public testimony

for print hearings. I don't agree with the vote, but I don't believe the process was unusual.

This is a particularly poor opinion piece

Today's political climate is, quite frankly, a mess. There is absolutely no civility to be found. Anywhere. The correct approach to dealing with someone with whom you do not agree is now to insult, berate, and yell louder than him or her. Everyone feels very strongly about their issues, be it education reform, wilderness and wildlife preservation, global warming, the debt crisis, health care reform, abortion, SSM, and wars abroad, just to name a few. One party consists of rich zealots, and the other party of socialist elitists. When issues are discussed, people are either prejudiced bigots, hate mongers, or baby killers. A visit to the comment section of this paper is much like going to a fight club. There is little-to-no intelligent debate, there is a lot of name calling, and, at the end of the day, there can be nothing but regression. What has happened to respect and decency? What has happened to civility? The childish response is: "He started it!" But at the end of the day, who cares? If we keep allowing the stupidity of others as an excuse our own misdeeds, we all end up dumber.

A common mantra repeated often to lawyers-in-training is that when one has the law in his favor, he should argue the law; when the facts are in his favor, he should argue the facts; when he has neither the law nor the facts in his favor, then he should yell louder than the other side. Rather than expressing its opinion as a well-reasoned and factually-supported statement of the issues, the editorial board has resorted to the same divisive tactics employed so prevalently in today's political rhetoric. Rather than calmly and respectfully expressing a valid opinion in terms of actual and potential harms and wrongs, the editorial board elected the easy route of lambasting those with whom it does not agree.

We cannot continue to treat those with whom we do not agree with such disrespect. And, as a purveyor of news and a catalyst for debate and exchange, the Statesman and its editorial staff cannot allow themselves to stoop to the rhetoric of hate and division. This opinion piece is long on emotion but short on substance. Hopefully it will go through another round of revisions before Sunday.

Thank you for truth in advertising

Putting your comment under the headline "this is a particularly poor opinion piece" made it clear what to expect.

Your characterization of the editorial reflected a lot of stuff going on in your head, not so much what the board put in print. Particularly poor.

What?

Can you please explain to me what you think my comment was trying to say and why you think it is incorrect? If I understand correctly, you think that I have mischaracterized the editorial. But how?

The editorial spends about 600 words trying to say: "The Senate Affairs Committee took a voice vote and decided to not print the proposed 'Add the Words' legislation. There is a need for this legislation and it was wrong for the committee members to not, at a minimum, allow this proposed legislation to be printed for public comment."

The editorial begins and ends with a list of charged adjectives describing, according to the editorial board, the way that the senate committee handled this. Is that a mischaracterization of the editorial? No. Why do they do this? To cause an emotional response. That is exactly what is wrong for the reasons I described in my preceding post. In this case, you, fortboise, have no problem with this tactic because you happen to agree with the editorial board. But imagine if, instead of being the Idaho Statesman editorial board, this was the editorial board for a publication that you don't agree with, like Fox News. Do you agree with the use of emotionally charged words in an attempt to distract the reader from the facts when it comes from a different source? My guess is that you do not. Please understand that I was not attacking the message, but rather the presentation of that message. If the reader wants to hear a lot of rhetoric, she only has to go to the comment section of the paper. That sort of rhetoric has no place in comments from the editorial board.

Next, the editorial board makes several comparisons. It points to Washington state's recent legislation and the Ninth Circuit's recent decision regarding Proposition 8 and claims that Idaho should be ashamed to not follow their lead. Again, this is not well-reasoned argument, it is essentially the "everybody else is doing it" argument used so ably by teenagers across the planet. These comparisons, like the use of charged adjectives, serve one purpose: to evoke an emotional response--namely, we don't want to be the hillbillies not following what is going on in Seattle and San Francisco. Is this prize-winning logic? Is this earth-shattering reasoning? Of course it isn't.

Perhaps the lowest blow of the editorial is its discussion of Senator McGee. The editorial states: "Let’s forget, for the moment, McGee’s own baggage, and instead concentrate on his comments." This is a wonderful tactic in that the board can pretend to be saying: 'let's not talk about McGee's problems,' while really saying: 'Remember McGee's problems?!' C'mon. Really? What does this add to the opinion? Nothing. What does it accomplish? It gets people mad. I riles people up. This is unnecessary rhetoric.

Now, fortboise, please tell me that my analysis is incorrect. You know it's not. You just happen to agree with what the editorial board is saying. Now, point out where in my original comment I said that I disagree with what the editorial board is saying. Can you find it? I hope not. I happen to agree that something this important to so many people should at least be printed. What I do not agree with, however, is the editorial board's heavy-handed use of rhetoric to cause an emotional response. It is my opinion that this is inappropriate and not the board's role.

You are patronizing as well as long-winded

First of all, writing at greater length does not make your points more persuasively. Secondly, you began by decrying a lack of "civility," which is quite frankly absurd. What could be more "civil" than an editorial in a newspaper? Yes, there are strong, emotional words, reflecting a strong, emotional issue having to do with individuals' civil rights.

You then use the words "insult, berate, and yell louder," but the editorial does none of those things. [edit: it does actually berate the committee members who refused to print the bill or accept any participation by the public. It berates them for good reason, and that is a valid use of the editorial form.]

The fact that I happen to agree with the editorial position is irrelevant. Your criticism is invalid because you are creating a straw man and then beating it unmercifully.

Why must I like the editorial's presentation?

I am not sure if you missed this, but I already stated that I agree with the editorial board. I agree that this proposed legislation should have gone further. Did you see that? Because I'm getting the distinct impression that you did not. So, why are you throwing such a fit? Do I have to like the editorial board's presentation? Honestly? Did you write the editorial? Did one of your family members? I'm kind of at a loss here. Why are you so upset that I think that the presentation is condescending and disingenuous? Though I am at a loss as to your desire to dispute my opinion of the editorial's presentation, I am nevertheless willing to defend my opinion.

First, I am not sure why is it absurd to decry a lack of civility. Personally, I do not like it when other people are rude to me, and I assumed that most people feel the same way. I avoid calling names because I do not like being on the receiving end of insults. Also, I am not of the opinion that current public debate is civil. Nor do I believe that civility is superfluous to the expression of ideas. In fact, I am appalled by the lack of civility in the comment section of this very newspaper. I am tired of the two political parties insulting each other (and by extension, us), always voting along party lines, and bombarding the public with rhetoric.

You say: "What could be more 'civil' than an editorial in a newspaper?" But that would suggest that it is impossible for an editorial board to write something that is not civil. And that can't be true. Of course, an editorial can be civil, but I think that we both have probably read more than our fair share of editorials that are not.

You seem to suggest that this particular topic is one for which we may disregard civility. Your opinion seems to be that this issue is so black-and-white that anyone not of your opinion can be berated "for good reason." Is that what you're trying to say? But don't you see the danger here? If issues are really black-and-white, then logic and reason are much more powerful tools than slander and insults. In fact, I would argue that the most sensitive topics are the ones that need civility more than the rest. Otherwise, we are stooping to the tactics of those who do not have the law and the facts on their side.

You claim that my criticism is invalid, but I do not understand why. I stepped through three examples of the board's presentation that I do not like, and I am not sure which is the alleged straw man. Is it the unnecessary use of emotional trigger words? Is it the comparison to our sister states and the suggestion that we should be ashamed if we don't follow them? Is it the not-so-veiled attack (all while pretending to not be an attack) on one of the senators? Why am I not allowed to criticize these methods?

C'mon fortboise. All I am trying to say is that we can do better. We can all do better. Things are getting to the point that two people of different positions can't even talk without insulting each other. Crap, we both agree with the premise of this editorial and yet we're at each other's throats. And the editorial board, as a group of professional writers, needs to hold itself to a higher standard. If they don't, then no one will.

Sorry for being so long-winded, and I did not mean to patronize.

Your opinion

I could not disagree with you more on this editorial. You obviously missed the point that there is a group of hard working, good people who are being discriminated against. They pay taxes (unlike one of our Legislators) they buy goods to support local businesses. They are not being represented by this Republican run Legislature. They can overlook one of their own if they evade paying taxes or get caught drunk and driving, but from their pious pedestal they ignore those who need their help.

Republicans need to do some deep soul searching on what they represent, because I see nothing but a group who wants to kill public education to have education for profit, to cut funding to the most vulnerable people in this state, deny health care to people who can least afford it,and will not provide any protection to a group of people because of their religious beliefs. The Bible must have drastically changed from when I read it.

Perhaps the substance you want is the emotional part of this article. These are human beings who breath the same air you do and sun themselves in the same sun.

Please read my comment again

I didn't miss the point. I understood all-too-well the point of the article. How could I miss it? It was presented in such a condescending and heavy-handed way.

Is it possible to agree with a point of view while disagreeing with its presentation? You agree with the message of the opinion. That is great. My comment was not attacking the underlying opinion piece, but was rather attacking its presentation. We are adults (I assume). We can have intelligent conversation without resorting to name-calling and rhetoric. We can discuss the issues intelligently. Perhaps calling people callous, dismissive, embarrassing, shameful makes you feel better, but it does not encourage intelligent debate.

Your comment makes me wonder what you understood from my comment. You claim that "the substance [I] want is the emotional part of this article." What? Nothing could be further from the truth. The substance that I want is a discussion of the facts. For instance: "Dozens of people have been fired across the state for their sexual orientation. This is a problem that must be addressed. The proposed bill would have addressed it." That is substance (is it true? I don't know). That is what I want. This is what I don't want: "The legislators are callous, insensitive, party line voting, baggage carrying, hillbillies. We should all be ashamed." I hope that the difference between these two examples is clear to you. The former presents facts and reasoning. The latter uses heavy-handed rhetoric.

The editorial board is smart enough to be able to present a well-reasoned and factually-supported opinion without having to resort to the latter of my two examples. This is why I do not like the opinion.

This is the best opinion piece in weeks!

Thanks Kevin for laying it out so clrearly.

No wonder Idahaha's politics are dissed around the country, often the butt of comedians' joke even just tonight on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Hopefully the Supreme Court or Congress will extend discrimination protection to all of Idaho's citizens thus by-passing those whose beliefs are ruled by the teachings of an obscure desert tribe in the Bronze Age.

Morality is not relative to human rights. Both are complimentary.

rights

I think gays have a right to be married.

I also think I have a right to decide who lives in MY rental apartments; who I hire in MY business; and who I hang out with on MY time.

I think I have the right to discriminate against people I don't like.

I don't want a religous zealot working for me, and I don't want to rent one of my nice apartments to a zookeeper.

I have rights too.

I have a right to discriminate even if it is wrong to do so. (and the angels start to sing)

The issue is not even the vote:

The issue the not even being willing to discuss it or investigate what is actually going on in our state. Let's elect people who will not dismiss legitimate concerns out of hand...

Silence speaks volumes

The Republicans who remained silent are cowards.

They did already discuss it...

...however it was to the illegitimate concerns, and they said NO!

Who's protecting my human rights

I demand they add the words STRAIGHT and HETROSEXUAL. Gays are not the only ones who need human rights! I want my rights too!

Leave it to Idaho

to deny equal rights to those equally created free.

gay rights bill

I am so ashamed of the Legislators who remained silent yesterday as a very vulnerable group of human beings were denied their Constitutional rights to protection under the law. Do these righteous Republicans think they are more special than anyone else? May they have many sleepless nights over their pious actions.

Sad Day in Idaho

As the legislators buckled to the far right. I have no respect for any group or religion that denies civil rights to others.

Thank you legislature!

At least the ones of you that chose not to even consider this garbage, and wasting the time nor money on it!

Sieg Heil

Got your Jack Boots on?

Well Said

Thanks for writing this Mr. Richert.

more fear and hate

People are different and have a right to be who they are, except in Idaho. Idaho needs to remove the policies that promote fear and hate. Let our people live their lives to the fullest, to pursue their own happiness, it's what America is all about. Get on board Idaho!

Wow KR.......

Gov Gregoire and the 9th Circus Court -- there's a pair to admire. Juvenile!

When ALL don't have equal rights ..................

............ all of our rights are diminished . I have to say that this isn't a big surprise , this state usually runs about 20 years behind civilized society .
I now return you to your regular scheduled bigots .

Again

I'll say it again...Rednecks, good o'l boys and mormons, recipe for hate, bigotry and discrimination.

Omission

You forgot to include brainwashed liberals.

One Powerful Argument

byutennismenace's most powerful argument is for a comment word limit.

Thank you

Thank you to the Idaho Statesman for being willing to step out front on this issue. Senate State Affairs was wrong, wrong, wrong to deny this bill a print. So disrespectful to both Malepeia and all Idahoans who seek equality for our LGBT and transgender friends. When history reflects on this time, may the committee members be reminded of their decision and feel great shame. We will be back year after year until Idaho Adds the Words.

THIS conservative (and many

THIS conservative (and many more that I know)support(s) legislation that makes it a crime to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Unfortunately the Republican lawmakers in Idaho are driven by their RELIGION first and foremost. Sad that they didn't do what is right.

Do not add the words

the legislature should have let the bill go to print, and then allowed for public comment. Then it would have been soundly defeated as it should be. The legislature is doing what the good people of the state of Idaho have asked them to do, and that is to not vote for nonsense legislation. Gays, Lesbions, trans gender etc ALREADY enjoy the same rights as every other citizen in Idaho. Nobody is having their rights denied to them. A job is not a right, an apartment or house is not a right, marriage is not a right.
The Democrats could probably regain the majority in Idaho if they would just moderate and actually represent the values of Idahoans, not just people in Sun Valley and the north end.

"nonsense legislation"

And yet, they have printed bills this session to, for example, designate an Idaho state poem and have the state collect revenue from a license plate for an organization formed less than a month before.

Not exactly true...fair housing is considered a right.

Isn't that what the fair housing act was all about? I can't refuse to rent to you because you are Catholic...or Black...or German...or a woman... etc. But I can refuse to rent to you because you are gay? How is that equal to "enjoying the same rights as every other citizen in Idaho"? Sorry, I just don't get it.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability).

By the way. I am an Idahoan and I don't consider discrimination an Idaho value. I don't have to agree with someone's lifestyle to advocate for fair treatment.

Putting the breaks on an insane trend

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are "at least" 20 distinctive sexual variations of "sexual orientation," some of which they classify as sexual disorders. Clearly then the phrase sexual orientation is an umbrella term that has no present or future limits regarding sexual deviancy, and the gay/lesbian lobby is seeking legal protection for every single one of them, known and unknown.

If these two words are moving history in the wrong direction (what else would you call legal protection for paraphilia and beast-iality?) then I am pleased that the Senate State Affairs Committee had the courage to stand athwart history.

Liberal Outrage

The comments being made by those who support homosexuality are making them sound like immature, spoiled brats who are upset because they did not get their way. Richert included. Our government should oppose special rights for any group. Gays, for some reason think they are special and deserve to be treated accordingly. Obviously, the Senate State Affairs Committee doesn't think so.

It would be giving them

the same rights that people have to not be discriminated based on their religion -- such as being LDS or not being LDS. Do you also think those are "special rights" that should be abolished?

The 1st Amendment does not

The 1st Amendment does not give special rights to religion or the practitioners of a religion but rather prohibits Congress from making any laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court did not have a problem with a law that made monogamy a condition for statehood, a law that was clearly prejudicial to Mormons who practiced polygamy as part of their faith. Likewise, in DHR of Oregon vs. Smith, the high court said the state does not have to show a compelling government interest to limit or infringe on religious exercise (i.e. the use of peyote).

I don't think you are going to win many Mormon converts with your religion argument, in spite of the many ways in which they were persecuted and even killed because they were Mormons. Sexual orientation is simply too broad of a concept encompassing a wide range of sexual practices that are not widely accepted by the public in general and which cut right to the heart of the conscience clause of the 1st Amendment. Religions of all stripes, and especially Christian religions, are under public attack from many quarters these days, including the LGBT lobby.

Did it ever occur to you that religion and sex were added to the Civil Rights Act to create broader support for the legislation? The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 have not been amended to include sexual orientation, and only 11 states have amended their civil rights legislation to include this wording. Some agencies of government, state and federal, as well as private employers have adopted this language in their HR policies, but they are under no legal mandate to do so; and they may wish they hadn't when the male vice president shows up for work one day wearing high heels and a dress. I'm not sure adding the words homosexual and lesbian will generate more support in conservative states like Idaho, but by narrowing it down to those two categories, it might get the bill printed so we can continue this discussion about rights.

Polite Word for Prejudice

I believe the word you are looking for is MAINSTREAM. A vast majority of Idaho residents do not practice the agenda you are promoting.

Many may describe what you practice as - offensive, abominable, appalling, awful, disgusting, distasteful, dreadful, evil, foul, fulsome, gross, hideous, horrendous, horrible, horrid, loathsome, nasty, nauseating, nauseous, noisome, noxious, obnoxious, obscene, odious, rancid, repellent, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, scandalous, shocking, sickening, ugly.

We have a word for you too...

Bigot.

I'm sorry you are full of so much hate.

I hope you don't turn it on yourself. I hope God welcomes you into heaven and eases your pain.
I'm not into practicing homosexual acts myself, but I have met some wonderful people who are.
I would hate for them to be treated unfairly because of their sexual preferences.

Special People

Yes, the Mormon elite have struck again. Gotta love the IdaUtah values! Do not censure a drunk thief, or a person who will not pay taxes, but let go after those (G)odless gays. Does proclamation of the family come to mind? Let us make sure we all bow our heads and say YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

Can't blame this on the mormons alone...there are plenty

of other folks on the same page.

The only thing embarrassing about this is...

...that this subject even was brought up and having a deviate representative of the legislature taking credit for writing it!