Tuesday, Dec. 4, was a huge victory for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Boise as the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to prohibit discrimination of employees, tenants or customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
People filed into the temporary City Council meeting room located in the State Capitol from the rain-soaked streets and took their seats. The 6 p.m. meeting saw the reading on a number of ordinances, but the main event was the non-discrimination ordinance.
Before the meeting began, faces were somber and broke into smiles only as people reunited with friends and associates.
Joe Seiders is a Boise State master’s student studying social work. As the auditorium began to fill, he offered his thoughts on the ordinance.
“I think in a state like this, where we’re at, this has to happen city by city. It’s not going to happen in the legislature, so I really hope there is a great turnout from students today. I know that there has been in the previous two sessions but it’s just incredibly important at all different levels, from the different issues that the LGBTQ community from the housing and discrimination and everything that exists, even as far as on the Boise State campus and their faculty and what they endure as professors, this is something that needs to happen,” Seider said.
The only other city in Idaho with such an ordinance is Sandpoint. According to the Idaho Press Tribune, Sandpoint is among 125 cities and 21 states to pass such an ordinance.
“Add the Words,” a statewide campaign to pass a similar law in the Idaho legislature, had been met with opposition earlier this year. A Senate committee refused to hear the bill, and it died in March after struggling to become state law for six years.
“It’s an advocacy issue, on behalf of myself, the clients, all the people I work with every day, it’s imperative,” Seider said. “This is what it has to look like within our state, in our demographic through the city unfortunately. I mean, we can’t even get out of committee. It doesn’t go anywhere.”
Once the auditorium was full the meeting began and everyone stood for the opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. The council started by honoring local restaurants for their sustainability efforts and quickly went through other ordinances.
When the non-discrimination ordinance was brought up to the floor the council members gave some final thoughts on the issue.
The council members spoke about how proud they were of people stepping up and taking a lead in their community. Maryanne Jordan fought tears as she spoke of her decision to vote in approval of the measure.
Council Member Ben Quintana’s thoughts mirrored many thoughts shared by the council members.
“I think this ordinance is a statement that we get to make as a community to say this is the way we do business here, this is the way we treat everyone here, and I’m glad that we’re a part of this movement and I think it’s a great thing not only for our community but our state,” Quintana said.
Once the ordinance passed, the crowd gave a standing ovation and cheered. Loved ones hugged and many cried out of excitement.
It is a big deal for the LGBTQ community on campus as it makes up a considerable number of students. According to Brenna Brumfield, treasurer of BGLAD, the queer-straight alliance on campus, approximately 10 percent of people on campus would be affected by the ordinance, especially since the ordinance extended to include transgender individuals.
“Why would you ever justify taking away someone’s right to a home and the right to feed their family just because they have a different sexual identity or gender. That’s inhumane. Finally someone realized people have the right to a home and a job, basic fundamental rights,” Brumfield said.
Mayor Dave Bieter addressed the audience and the council before the vote.
“I have to say I was a little skeptical at first about whether this was really necessary, so I can’t thank you all enough that came to testify,” Bieter said. “They’re so hard on all of you to give your personal stories, but that’s what matters to us and that’s where we see that policy is not a sterile thing that we do in a room like this, it’s something that matters in our community, so I can’t say enough for those of you who were willing to do that, we just owe you so much because that’s what really makes a difference,” Bieter said.
Jessica McCafferty stood in the hallway of the Capitol building’s west wing shortly after the ordinance was voted on.
“I’m very excited,” McCafferty said. “I’m not a resident of Idaho. I moved here for school. But I was appalled at the thought that there wasn’t an equality ordinance in the city or in the state for that matter. So I’m really glad that it happened now.”
She continued, “I’m a master’s student in public administration so looking at policy is especially important to me and this is really interesting. (Council member) Lauren McLean actually graduated from our program so it’s a big honor to have her be a part of this moment.”