Listen to KID NewsRadio’s interview with Benjamin Earwicker, Director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission

 

BOISE, Idaho — A renewed effort to add the words “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity,” to the Idaho Human Rights Act is in the state house again.

Senator Maryanne Jordan introduced Senate Bill 1015 to amend the Idaho Human Rights act, “to provide that freedom from discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity is a civil right,” according to the bills’ text.

“The legislature continues to ignore the pleas of LGBTQ Idahoans, their families and friends,” Jordan said, according to the Idaho State Journal “It’s time for all Idahoans to have equal protection under the law.”

This is not the first time lawmakers have seen the push to add the words, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” to Idaho’s list of civil rights outlined in the Idaho Human Rights Act. In 2015, House Bill 002 would have made discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity a criminal offense. Lawmakers saw similar efforts to add the words in 2016 under Senate Bill 1196, and again in 2018 under House Bill 408.

Senate Bill 1015 does not include the phrase “criminal offense,” and also includes legal definitions of gender identity and sexual orientation.

“‘Gender identity’ means a person’s actual or perceived gender identity, appearance, mannerism, or other characteristics, with or without regard to the person’s sex at birth,” according to Senate Bill 1015. “‘Sexual orientation’ means a person’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.”

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Under Idaho code, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, and disability is already prohibited. Idaho is one of several states without specific legal language to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Idaho is one of 17 states that do not include some type of explicit language similar to the add the words, legislation regarding sexual orientation or gender identity,” Earwicker said. “Federal law does cover and protect those two categories under Title Seven on the basis of sex. So, there is some kind of conflict I would say between state and federal law. I think that’s an interesting issue that has yet to be resolved.”

Despite the lack of specific language in present Idaho code, Benjamin Earwicker, Director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, told KID NewsRadio the commission already documents discrimination claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity as required by federal law. Discrimination claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity represent a small portion of the average 400 to 500 claims received by the Idaho Human Rights Commission each year, less than five percent of reports.

View how many claims of discrimination the Idaho Human Rights Commission receives each year in the interactive graphic below. Click on the magnifying glass icon in each slide to view full details on each section.

 

“Last year we received a total of 502 charges of discrimination,” Earwicker said. “So, the 502 that we received last year, by far the largest number of claims had to do with disability…165 claims had to do with sex and that’s broken down female, male, pregnancy related, and then sexual orientation and gender identity. The sexual orientation and gender identity claims total, were nine claims out of the 502.”

Earwicker said his experience shows a state full of people who are understanding and respectful when it comes to minorities and encouraged all Idahoans to continue following the golden rule regardless of the outcome of this most recent piece of legislation.

“Most businesses, most employees, most managers want to do the right things and want to treat people well with respect and dignity and not discriminate,” Earwicker said. “That would be my piece of advice would be continue doing the right thing. Treating people with respect. A lot of this comes down to that very basic piece of interaction, which is treating others the way that we want to be treated…working through issues as they arise, carefully and consistently and sitting down with people and having difficult conversations and figuring out how to move forward.”

Information about what the Idaho Human Rights Commission does, what constitutes discrimination and what your options are if you feel you’re being discriminated against, can be found at the commission’s website.

Human Rights – Idaho

The Idaho Human Rights Commission is an independent agency established by the Idaho legislature to help protect persons within the state from illegal discrimination.

Want to follow Senate Bill 1015? Find the latest details and it’s current status, here:

SENATE BILL 1015 – Idaho State Legislature

The status of each bill, resolution, proclamation, and memorial is updated when the offices of the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House publish the un-official daily journals and should not be deemed official.