By Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise
Every Idahoan deserves to feel safe and welcome in our state. It is inspiring to watch the growing movement for our freedom to live authentically and choose who we love. Over the past few months, Pride celebrations across our state have brought communities together to celebrate this freedom. Even towns as small as Wallace, with 800 residents, joined in with its inaugural Silver Valley Pride.
Across our state, everyday people and businesses are standing up in greater numbers to support our freedoms and fight back against hate.
Idaho voters understand the harms of discrimination at a gut level. They know that it’s wrong to fire someone or deny them housing based on their identity. This is why a majority of Idahoans support adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Humans Rights Act. Idaho Democrats sponsor a bill to do just that every year, but we are blocked from getting a hearing by the Republican supermajority.
The Idaho business community recognizes that being inclusive is both the right thing to do and smart for their bottom line. Businesses large and small support Pride celebrations to build the welcoming communities that attract and retain talented employees in Idaho. These companies are also sending an important message to their prospective customers about their values.
The trend toward accepting and celebrating our friends and neighbors is positive for all Idahoans — except for the politicians who seek to gain power by making us fear each other. While progress is often met with backlash, it’s extremely troubling that hateful rhetoric is coming from leaders we ought to be able to trust. Combined with the onslaught of Republican-backed bills attacking our LGBTQ+ community, this posturing can make Idaho a hostile place.
Earlier this month, the top Idaho Republican Party official wrote that community celebrations of our fellow Idahoans comprise “deviant debauchery,” among other hurtful statements. The words are not just painful, they are dangerous. The demonization of our fellow Idahoans fuels senseless — and even deadly — violence, as recent events show.
Just last year, 31 members of a white supremacist group packed up riot gear, loaded themselves into a U-Haul and set out to terrorize the Coeur d’Alene Pride celebration. Thankfully, their plans were thwarted by the quick actions of local law enforcement.
The ending of another story is heartbreakingly tragic. In 2017, Steven Nelson was murdered in Canyon County simply for being gay.
Idahoans all deserve dignity, respect, and a life free from discrimination and violence. We must elect leaders who will fight for this ideal and reject those who use hate and fear manufactured for political gain.
Rep. Lauren Necochea is the House assistant Democratic leader, representing District 19 in Boise on the Commerce and Human Resources; Environment, Energy and Technology; Revenue and Taxation; and Ways and Means committees.
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