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June 16, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 24
 
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City of Boise Protects All - Huge Victory for Equality in Boise
City of Boise Protects All - Huge Victory for Equality in Boise
by Raven Usher - Managing Editor - Diversity Newsmagazine

While Idaho citizens face a ballot on the Nov 2006 election that threatens to write prejudice and discrimination into the Idaho state constitution, civic leaders in Boise took a bold step towards human rights and equality.

On April 26 the Boise City Council, led by Council President MaryAnne Jordan and supported by Mayor Bieter, voted unanimously to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the city's non-discrimination policy. The vote is the result of a six year campaign to combat discrimination and intolerance. The entire City Council has pledged their support not only to back this land mark decision but also to stand together and face whatever comes next.

Idaho state Representative Nicole LeFavour and Boise human rights activistYour Family Friends and Neighbors (YFFN) co-chairs Nikki Leonard and Amy Herzfeld were instrumental in their work with Council President Jordan in bringing this brave and progressive step towards equal human rights by the City Council to fruition. Idaho LGBT press lines, which were informed of this major development almost immediately after the vote had taken place, showed appreciation and support to the Boise City Council by withholding press releases and news stories to give Council President Jordan the chance to make the first public announcement. This uncommon show of unity between a government body and news organizations is a testament to the dedication to human rights that is being fostered in Idaho's capitol city.

"This is a real cause for celebration," said Representative LeFavour. "It is one of those moments that I have held my breath for."

"I was in tears when I heard the news," YFFN co-chair Nikki Leonard said, "It is a such a huge victory for not only our LGBT community but also for all Boise citizens."

With a population under 300,000 Boise is a relatively small city. However, the City Council has shown that Boise can stand tall side by side with major metropolitan cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles in the protection of its citizens.

Annie Shipley, YFFN Board member noted, "In very recent history, we have seen attitudes towards the LGBTQ community change drastically for the better, but we still face many challenges like the proposed constitutional amendment to limit marriage to one man and one woman. If this passes, it will no doubt be an embarrassment to Idaho in a matter of years and I feel so grateful that the Boise City Council will be standing on the side of equality in the history books by protecting their employees from these sorts of harassment."

The work to make this change was not exclusively conducted by YFFN board members. Other organizations that played a part in the victory included the ACLU, PFLAG, Idaho Women's Network, and the Interfaith Alliance. "It was really important to have support from our allies in this effort," said Nikki Leonard. "They played a key part in the effort to achieve equality for the entire LGBT community."

There is no telling what effect news of the new non-discrimination policy will have on the Nov 2006 election issue that threatens to make same-sex marriage illegal in Idaho. However, such a major step towards equality does shed a ray of hope that the citizens of Idaho will continue the fight against hatred that drove white supremacists out of the state. That same spirit may yet defeat the push that threatens to have state-sponsored hatred to be written into the Idaho constitution.

The state-wide slogan "Idaho is too great for hate!" passed the test of its truth when neo-nazi groups were defeated in Idaho. It is now being put to the test over equal human rights for Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered people. The Boise City Council has stood up to and passed that test. In Nov the nation will see if the rest of Idaho will pass that same test.



Courtesy of Diversity Newsmagazine (www.Gayidaho.org)

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