Idaho isn’t exactly famous for its warm embrace of LGBT rights, but things took a decidedly dramatic turn on Monday when police arrested 43 activists in the state capitol. Their crime: silently blocking the entrance to the state Senate chamber to urge the legislature to take up a nondiscrimination bill, which has been stalled because of Republican opposition.
“We are here to insist the Idaho Legislature finally add four words, ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ to Idaho’s Human Rights Act to prevent the suicides, beatings, loss of jobs, evictions and the fear that too many gay and transgender Idahoans live with every day,” the group, appropriately named Add the Words, said in a news release. “We do this for those who live in fear and those who may despair this year if no one speaks for them.”
The group, dressed in black T-shirts with “Add the Words” on them, blocked the entrance for two hours before police began arresting them. Those arrested were charged with suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing.
Among the organizers was former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, who was the first openly lesbian member of the legislature. She stood in the doorway of the Senate, with her hand over her mouth, refusing to talk. As a former senator, LeFavour had privileges to be on the floor of the Senate. However, the Senate voted to suspend those privileges so that she could be arrested.
“We have no issue with police,” LeFavour said after her arrest. “Our issue is with a Legislature that won’t stand up and say ‘cruelty to gay, lesbian and transgender people is wrong.'”