Maryanne Jordan

Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, discusses the “Add the Words” bill she’d just introduced, moments after the Idaho Senate adjourned for the day on Friday. At right are Sens. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise; and Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.

BOISE — Legislation to add anti-discrimination protections for gays and transgender people to the Idaho Human Rights Act was introduced in the Senate on Friday as a personal bill by Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise.

Personal bills don’t require a committee’s OK to be introduced; Friday was the final day for personal bills to be introduced in the Senate.

Jordan’s bill, SB 1015, simply adds four words, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” along with definitions, to the state’s existing anti-discrimination law, which covers discrimination in employment, housing, education and more.

Jordan said most of her Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate are signing on as co-sponsors of the bill. “We’ve gone two years without reintroducing this legislation,” Jordan told the Idaho Press. “I know that several folks have tried to craft something that they describe as a compromise, but we have not seen anything come forward. And when it comes to rights that are equal for everyone, I struggle with the idea of compromise.”

She noted, “We have protections that are in this legislation (the existing Human Rights Act) already for age, religion, race, etc. I’m not comfortable with legislation that continues to allow discriminatory practices.”

Idaho is one of just 17 states with no such protections from gender or sexual orientation discrimination in state law, though more than a dozen Idaho cities have passed local anti-discrimination ordinances. Outside of those cities, Idahoans still can legally be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes simply because they’re gay.

“My goal is to have a hearing,” Jordan said. “It’s been four years since we had a hearing. We have a whole lot of new legislators here, and more cities have passed ordinances. I think it’s time to have the conversation again.”

On Monday, about 200 protesters, including local clergy members, filled the Capitol to call for Idaho to “add the words” to the Human Rights Act. Many of the protesters held signs telling the stories of gay and transgender Idahoans who have been denied housing, fired from jobs, or even assaulted because of their sexual orientation.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.