A crowd of supporters gathered in the halls of the Ada County Courthouse, unable to find a seat inside to support their fellow protesters. Several Add the Words advocates awaited their turn to appear before Judge Thomas Watkins, a magistrate judge for the Fourth Judicial District Court.
The 22 demonstrators, charged for trespassing during February protests were sentenced on Monday, July 21. Nicole LeFavour, a former Idaho lawmaker and one of the chief organizers of the protests, was sentenced to 70 hours of community service as well as to paying court costs. This sentence was given to all 22 defendants unless prior convictions were on their record.
For the past eight years, Add the Words protesters have lobbied for a public hearing in order to discuss adding four words to the Idaho Human Rights Act: “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. The addition of these words will prevent gay and transgender Idahoans from being discriminated against for employment, housing, education, business and public service purposes.
According to testimony from Fred Riggers, a witness for the prosecution, the Capitol Building is open for anyone to talk to the legislature, the governor or even the secretary of state, which is something that he has done regularly for the past 14 years. He doesn’t, however, believe that in this case the protesters approached the situation in the correct way. During the multiple days in which the protest took place, Riggers found himself denied access to places people are usually allowed to go.
“I was almost ashamed of what was going on,” Riggers said.
For LeFavour and the other protesters, organizing this protest was the only card left to play.
“I can say that all of us have tried everything,” LeFavour said. “What we did this year was all we could do.”
LeFavour has been active in promoting Add the Words since 1996.
Her involvement in politics goes back to her childhood, when she first spoke to the Idaho legislature accompanied by her parents.
“We thought that would make them take us more seriously,” she said.
LeFavour was an Idaho state senator from 2008 to 2012. She was the first openly gay lawmaker in Idaho. In office and out, LeFavour continued her struggle to add the words.
Because of this, many Idaho citizens affected by this issue have called upon her to speak on their behalf.
“You have people coming up to you, telling you their kids are taking their lives,” LeFavour said. “What do you do?”
As she concluded her statement, LeFavour’s palms stretched out towards Watkins. In a final statement to the court, Watkins expressed his appreciation for the approach the protestors took.
According to Watkins, the group was peaceful in their approach.
“The American tradition is civil disobedience; we disobey, then take our consequence,” Watkins said. “I think you’ve done both.”