One step toward equality, but not quite there

A few months ago Boise took a big step towards equality for all of it’s citizens who are part of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender etc.) An ordinance was passed allowing LGBT citizens to be allowed equal opportunity in housing, jobs, and use of public buildings and services.

It passed 5-0. This made Boise one of the four cities in Idaho to implement anti-employment discrimination laws. The question that is raised now is if this will truly do what it was set out to do. Though this does bode well for the advancement of human rights in Idaho, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

Michial Cantrell, a criminal justice major, has mixed feelings about the effectiveness of this legislation. “I think that it is good that our city made the decision to make such a bold statement, however based on the Right to Work laws I don’t feel that it will make a noticeable change in the job markets,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell unfortunately has already felt the effects of discrimination in the workplace. He was fired, before this ordinance passed, for minute causes immediately after he was discovered to be gay at work. They listed next to nothing in the cause of termination. Still this termination would not necessarily have changed if it had happened during this new legislation. The Right to Work laws are something that Idaho, along with 22 other states, agreed to. It allows employers to fire their employees without any named reasons.

He explains,“it would still be possible for an employer to fire someone based on their sexual orientation by citing unrelated issues as cause or by giving no cause at all since it is not required.”

Cantrell admits the system isn’t perfect but that this was still an important part of getting equal rights “I do feel however that it does make a statement that such behavior will not be tolerated in
our state,” Cantrell said.

Though Cantrell is correct in the fact the system can be abused, it is still important to remember that this action does have consequences. This ordinance is not a huge change but it does show that Idaho is taking a step toward equal protections for it’s LGBT citizens. This is an important change during this period where LGBT teen suicide has been rampant across America, and other big moves, like the removal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, are coming to light.

Andrew Geske, a transgender student studying health science, has taken this change optimistically. “This ordinance is a big step in the right direction, and I think it sets a good example for other Idaho cities to follow, but there’s still a lot of work to be done here in Boise.”

Geske speculated on how important this change was for him, and his family. After coming out, the biggest worry his parents faced was how he would be able to get into the job market. They were sure that his gender identity would stand in his way. Now he hopes he can help calm some of those fears, as well as face the job world with a renewed excitement.

When asked if he felt more secure in applying for jobs and housing now that the ordinance passed, he exclaimed, “Oh, hells yes! It’s good to know that I’ll be judged for my performance at work or my credit history just like everybody else, rather than for my identity.”

This ordinance was a huge step towards equal rights in Boise, but it was only one step, before true equality can be achieved other protections will likely be needed. What’s important though is to remember that this is still something to celebrate. This ordinance may not change everything but it did give hope to those fighting for the cause, and brought a new wave of optimism to the LGBT community in Idaho.

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