Nearly a year ago, Boise City Council members passed an non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting the discrimination of employees and housing tenants based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For Boise State junior Madison Hansen, the local ordinance offered some peace of mind.
“Before it was passed, I was constantly moving around with the knowledge that if my landlord found out I was queer, he could evict me,” Hansen said.
Hansen thinks while individual Idaho cities, seven of them, so far, have passed non-discrimination ordinances protecting the LBGTQ community, equality for all Idaho citizens is far from realized.
“It is unsettling to know that state and federal laws are bigger and could nullify these community rulings,” Hansen said.
With the Idaho state legislature currently rejecting proposed Add the Words laws, Hansen said she isn’t satisfied until LGBTQ members are given complete equality under the laws of the land.
“Even though it was a tiny beacon of hope when Add the Words passed, I didn’t see much difference in my life, or the lives of my friends who have experienced more violent queerphobia than I have,” Hansen said.
Pamela Parks is the administrator for the Idaho Council on Human Rights and handles claims of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, housing and educational facilities.
“If someone is let go because of their race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability or age over 40, that is considered discriminatory,” Parks said.
LGBTQ members are protected from discrimination under the “sex” portion of the Human Rights Council’s definition of the law, but Parks said the Idaho legislature and federal government still need to approve or amend a bill specifically detailing equal protection for all.
“Small employers, who generally do not have in-house counsel to call upon, should be able to read the law and understand what their responsibilities are without having a legal background or a sophisticated understanding of the Supreme Court decisions,” Parks said in an email to The Arbiter. “The law should be as clear and unambiguous as possible.”
As individual Idaho cities pass LGBTQ equality laws, Parks said irregularities could cause legal confusion among employers.
“Many cities in Idaho are adding ordinances that may differ from one another, which creates a non-uniform approach. Amending the state law will provide uniformity, clarity, and consistency so that one company operating in different cities will know what it should be doing to comply with the law,” Parks said.
Meanwhile, until federal and state laws specifically address all types of discrimination, students like Hansen will remain skeptical about local ordinances.
“I don’t want to settle. It’s just one tiny law that doesn’t have any impact on my life, or really, in the community around me,” Hansen said.
Hansen thinks while passing laws to protect LGBTQ members is essential to overall equality, negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian citizens still need to be changed.
“I have a lot of straight relatives who are under this impression that now that gay marriage is legal in some places, or now that this thing in Boise has happened, homophobia is wiped out. But that’s just not true,” Hansen said.