On Aug. 21, Ada County expanded employee anti-discrimination policies to include members of the LGBTQIA community. The expansion had been in the works for several months before finally being passed by county commissioners.
Diana Lachiondo, one of the commissioners responsible for the policy expansion, said that there were no previous attempts to expand the anti-discrimination laws, but the county agreed that it was time to make a change.
“Ada County’s new anti-discrimination language adopted this month is the right thing to do,” Lachiondo said. “We believe each person has the absolute right to work in an environment that is safe and professional. The anti-discrimination language reflects who we are as leaders and residents of Ada County.”
Lachiondo said that inclusive language in the Treasure Valley and the state is very important and that her and her team are very proud of this accomplishment.
“The Ada County Board of Commissioners includes two new commissioners who took office in January: myself and commission Chair Kendra Kenyon,” Lachiondo said. “This inclusive language has always been a priority for me, and I am pleased we made this change eight months into my term.”
With the expansion, Lachiondo hopes to encourage employers to simply focus on finding the most useful skills to contribute to the workforce.
“Attracting and developing the best talent in our workforce is critically important to the board,” Lachiondo said. “We want every person to feel confident that, when they apply for a job with Ada County or come to work here, it is because of their outstanding skill sets.”
The idea of focusing only on work skills and contribution to the workforce is being explored by Add the Words, an organization that is working to persuade Idaho legislators to update the Human Rights Act to include protections for people in the LGBTQIA community.
Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, the chair of Add the Words, said that she is thrilled to see Idaho lawmakers take a step in the direction toward equality.
“This is another incremental step (of) bending the arc towards justice,” Gaona-Lincoln said. “(The expansion) doesn’t touch statewide issues, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Gaona-Lincoln said it is the organization’s hope that Idaho will become a state where members of the LGBTQIA community can live, work and thrive.
“We are always asking lawmakers to come to the table and consider what the Idaho Human Rights Act should look like,” Gaona-Lincoln said. “We’re not going to stop. We are hoping that (lawmakers) see gay and transgender people in humanity and recognize that they are worthy of protection.”
Blake Hunter, a junior media arts major, explained that, while this expansion is only a small step towards equality, it is important that Boise State protects students from discrimination the same as the state.
“This step shouldn’t be overlooked, because the policy positions Ada County as an ally alongside the cities and the BSU administration in prioritizing student’s right to safety and job security, a simple task that the state of Idaho and federal government has repeatedly and shamelessly failed to do for decades,” Hunter wrote in an email. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of more movement to prohibit discrimination in other sectors, other counties and other cities outside the 13 who currently have policies protecting LGBTQIA+ folks.”
Hunter said that the anti-discrimination policy should encourage people to understand the privilege they have and join the ongoing fight for equality, especially for those who cannot fight for themselves.
“I am a straight-passing, white, thin, queer individual who feels safe in almost all spaces I occupy, and I have enough privilege to confront people in most scenarios of harassment,” Hunter wrote. “Many other people in my community do not have the privilege to feel safe doing that, and no one should have to defend themselves or their identities.”