500 Opponents Influenced Public Policy

People often say they can’t make a difference as political interests clash.   But public opinion made a difference last week when a proposal (HB 427) that essentially nullifies local anti-discrimination ordinances and promotes private lawsuits was considered by my State Affairs Committee, and one to allow professionals to discriminate (HB 426) was essentially withdrawn. Thank you to the 500 hundred people who appeared in opposition.

Just as public defeat of the Luna Laws influenced our Legislature, vigorous public opposition caused enthusiastic committee members to stop and think. Now both laws may ultimately be abandoned.

HB 427 allows a “person” to be sued for infringing on the rights of an aggrieved person’s religious freedom in virtually any context, including employment,  contractual relationships, or services.   A “person” such as a clerk or waiter could be sued even if that “person” was not the one that made policy.  And, by using this religious freedom claim, people would be free to ignore local anti-discrimination ordinances.

Forty of the 500 opponents who came to my Committee testified against HB 427.  HB 426, which allowed professionals to discriminate, was not mentioned and was quietly put aside, in part because of public opinion and in part because of an Attorney General Opinion.  Only 3 or 4 testified in favor, and after hard questions from several of us the proponents asked to “amend” the bill.

That isn’t the end.  On Wednesday, February 12, the effort to amend the bill to eliminate affirmative lawsuits by offended religious persons was postponed.  Myself, Rep. Erpelding, Rep. Burgoyne, Rep. Rusche and Rep. Ringo were ready with debate and  amendments which would point out serious flaws.  The gallery was packed with 250 opponents and no supporters.

Believe me, that scenario influences public policy.  We shall see what happens if an amended bill is revived.  I am not saying it won’t come back, but I am saying that those who participated have had an effect.  I encourage you to visit your Statehouse again whenever there are issues of concern.  Thank you.

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4 Comments on "500 Opponents Influenced Public Policy"

  • Allen Walker says

    I agree with your sentiment that letter writing and the like to our locally elected reprerentatives may have influenced HB427 to not be brought up on the floor for debate/vote.

    But are you certain the Republicans will not just introduce this bill at random on general orders and again steamroller it through like they did at the committee stage?

    I ask this because i sat in the Gallery everyday last week, except Friday as i had to work early. I realise that sitting in the gallery does little to in fact influence anything, although on Wednesday when we did in fact pack the Gallery, i hoped that Rep Luker and his colleagues noticed, and thought twice about how this proposed bill and the publicity surrounding it has been reported locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. And that the same publicity now reflects so badly on not only Idaho and the Republican party here, but on Rep Luker himself.

    • John says

      Allen, advocates could come back with another bill. Maybe they will but your dedication to your cause and beliefs has had an impact. And, you are doing what you can do to make things right. I applaud your efforts, and encourage you to keep returning and letting them know that a Freedom to Discriminate Law is not acceptable in Idaho. Thank you.

  • dede shelton says

    Thank you Rep. Gannon. Just the fact that this was even printed ad a bill scares me and makes me want to leave this state as my gay child did. He saw great discrimination and I saw the hateful looks by Idahoans when my son walked in a room with his partner. As a mother I am heartbroken and now Kansas is passing a similar law. Why are we going backwards, why are we worrying Jim crow and nazi mentality laws? I testified and seeing the view, know they still don’t get it. Thanks for your support! Add the Words.

  • Emilie Jackson-Edney says

    Seems like every time I go to the statehouse lately, I get arrested.
    WTF…please ATW. :-P

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