The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
One of the longest-running pieces of unfinished human rights business in Idaho is the refusal of the Legislature to make a simple, four-word addition to the state’s 1969 Human Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.
It is ironic that the state capitol is in Boise, which is also home to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. This quiet little corner park beside the Green Belt is the only Anne Frank Memorial in the United States, and one of the few places in the world where the full Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is on permanent public display. Boise is among Idaho’s cities that have regulations that prohibit discrimination against anyone because of age, race, religion, national origin or ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation in such areas as housing, job placement, and access to services. The state, however, does not safeguard gender identity and sexual orientation, despite more than a decade of effort.
Boise State Student Media
The decade-long effort to extend equal protection under law to LGBT people in Idaho did not even make it past the wishful thinking stage in the 2016 session of the Legislature. A proposal had been prepared that would include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's 1969 Human Rights Act, and would have expanded the investigative authority of Idaho’s Commission on Human Rights. The commission, created by the Legislature as an independent agency to pursue discrimination allegations, was defunded by Gov. Butch Otter in 2010, and placed under the Idaho Department of Labor.
In the years since the Human Rights Act was adopted, it has been amended several times, to include protections for workers over the age of 40, and to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Until the commission’s independent status was eliminated and its role folded into the Department of Labor, it chiefly functioned to arbitrate complaints of discrimination based upon gender or disabilities. Complaints about discrimination on account of age, national origin, race, and religion have been far less frequent. Since Gov. Otter defunded the commission, however, its six investigators have received many more complaints – about 2,000 a year – involving sex and gender discrimination. In 2014, the agency received 2,188 discrimination allegations and developed 500 cases, of which more than a quarter involved alleged retaliation – often an employer verses an employee. Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved some kind of harassment, in addition to sexual harassment.
Since the labor department took over, the commission has dismissed more than two-thirds of cases it investigates after not finding enough evidence to proceed. When that happens, the person who brought the case still has the right to sue the person or organization being accused of the discrimination, but fewer than 20 percent of cases have resulted in a settlement that could be regarded as favoring the person who made the complaint.
• The absence of a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodation and business services in effect makes it legal to turn away gay or transgender people from Idaho gas stations and grocery stores, to discriminate and refuse entry or service in restaurants, hotels, day care centers, car repair shops or any other retailers.
• Idaho does not prohibit housing discrimination or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Idaho does not have a law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and has no law dealing with harassment or bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Idaho does not have a law that addresses discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Idaho has no ban on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare, nor does it provide transgender-inclusive health benefits to state employees. • Idaho does, provide for gender marker change on driver’s licenses. And, in October 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court decision in Latta v. Otter that found Idaho's statutory and state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.