After hearing passionate testimony from people on both sides of the issue since Monday, an Idaho legislative committee is expected to vote this afternoon on whether to advance a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's antidiscrimination law.
The House State Affairs Committee was hearing more testimony on the bill this morning at the state capitol in Boise and will most likely vote on it in the afternoon, the Idaho Statesman reports. With a conservative majority -- 13 Republicans to four Democrats -- the committee probably will decide against sending the measure to the full House, effectively killing it for this session, according to the paper.
"Several lawmakers say privately that hearing the bill is the first step in a process that is likely to take several years," the Statesman reports. The Republican-controlled legislature had refused to hear such a bill for nine years, but massive protests held last year convinced lawmakers to schedule a hearing for this session.
A majority of those testifying on the bill, dubbed "Add the Words" by its proponents, were supportive. During the first two days of testimony, Monday and Tuesday, a total of 118 people spoke to the committee, 70 for and 48 against, the Statesman reports.
Some of the testimony, via the Statesman and the Associated Press:
Diane Terhune: "My son now presents as my daughter, and I can't bear the thought of my precious child being treated unfairly by anyone simply for being herself. ... For those of you who think [LGBT] individuals don't need to be protected as a group because they choose their lifestyles, let me tell you that no one chooses this life. It is one of hardship."
Julie Stratton: "I want to be valued as a human being based on the person that I am, the person that my mother raised me to be. ... Please include my wife and me as fully equal citizens of this state and help us to be proud of living here."
Jenny Seibert: "My earliest recollection is that I knew myself to be a girl. Everyone else told me I was a boy. ... We learn to hide, because we have to, sometimes to live, sometimes to make a living, and sometimes to find that place to live in."
Paul Thompson: "Don't make laws that protect laws against nature and sexual deviant acts. ... Regardless of sexual orientation, it is a law that makes a mockery of all that is created and to our creator."
Arvell Bajema: "I want to address a claim by many LBGTs that they were born with their sexual orientation or gender identity. ... The reality is that all of us are designed by God to be heterosexual."
Sonja Davis: "I believe I should have the freedom to hire the employee who I feel like. What segment of society will be next? Tall people? Short people? Fat people?"
Those testifying also included clergy members, some favoring the bill, some not. Rep. John Crostie, the only openly gay member of the legislature, asked Brian Thom, the Episcopal bishop of Idaho, "Can you tell me where gay people come from?" Thom, who supports the bill, responded, "If you are gay, sir, then I believe God made you that way." Those in the chamber burst into applause, and committee chairman Tom Loertscher banged his gavel in an attempt to quiet them, the AP reports.
Another supportive clergy member was Marci Glass, pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise. "My call as a minister of the good news of Jesus Christ is to proclaim justice for the oppressed and stand with people as Christ would," she said.
Jeff Estes, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Meridian, said some of his congregants worried that such a law would mean the church could be closed down to due to its beliefs on homosexuality. Ken Donnelly, a lawyer with the antigay group Alliance Defending Freedom, contended there is a threat to churches; he cited the subpoenas delivered to pastors in Houston who opposed that city's LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance. (The subpoenas, related to the city's defense in a lawsuit filed by the ordinance's opponents, were eventually withdrawn.)
But Richard Eppink, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said nothing in the bill would "restrict the rights of clergy to say or think what they want at any time or any place."
Watch a report from Boise TV station KIVI below.