Shock, anger and sadness reverberated through the Idaho Senate auditorium Friday morning after a party-line vote by the Senate State Affairs Committee killed legislation to add protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals under the Idaho Human Rights Act.
Legislative committees don’t hear testimony at print hearings, but that didn’t stop 300 people from watching as the proposal fell, with only the committee’s two Democrats voting to print the bill. Many attendees wore buttons or shirts stating their support for the legislation, referred to as “Add The Words.”
Sen. Edgar Malepeai (D-Pocatello), introduced the measure and fought back tears as he asked members to print the bill and allow testimony from supporters. “In my opinion, it would be profoundly disrespectful not to afford,” said Malepeai said, who is straight. Pausing to collect himself, he added: “Not to afford those tens of thousands of families affected by this legislation with at least a printing of the bill.”
At a “print hearing” such as this, committee members decide whether or not to formally introduce a bill for consideration. Once “printed,” a measure is entered into the public record and then voted on. With Malepeai (right) and Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) the only two of nine committee members who voted in favor of printing the bill, its existence won’t even be entered into the public record.
While public testimony is generally not taken at such meetings, sources say Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa) could have easily allowed it. After the vote was called and the committee adjourned, one witness exclaimed, “Have you no shame?”
We’re gonna go with “no.”