After commenting a couple of weeks ago that the Idaho legislature was mistaken not to pass legislation to "add the words" to provide employment, housing and other other protections on the basis of sexual orientation or identity, Republican former Governor (1995-99) Phil Batt followed up with this opinion article widely reprinted in Idaho newspapers.
The Idaho Legislature has once again decided to take no action to include sexual orientation under our anti-discrimination statutes. Instead, lawmakers seriously considered state approval of anti-gay incidents if they are done because of religious convictions.
These procedures and the protests generated by them have attracted the attention of major news outlets in large cities and even that of London newspapers.
Idaho leaders have said this is of no interest to present or prospective business opportunities in our state. In my career as a legislative leader and as a governor, I found otherwise. Large Idaho corporations, and particularly Hewlett-Packard and Boise Cascade, were very much concerned about Idaho’s reputation regarding tolerance.
The long presence of practicing Nazis in North Idaho caused negative press coverage of our beloved state worldwide. HP executives and other Idaho businesspeople helped force these scumbags out. However, the main credit goes to North Idaho citizens, who detested their abominable presence.
When an Idaho congresswoman said people of color would not live in North Idaho because it was too cold for them, we got another wave of bad publicity. She recanted her views and our good name was again restored.
Our Idaho executives told me that the state’s reputation is important to their businesses. If it is damaged, sales are hurt. Perhaps more important, it becomes much more difficult to attract outstanding, well-qualified and forward-thinking people to apply for Idaho employment.
Such is the case for a couple of my grandchildren. Max is gay. He attended Boise schools. He felt marginalized and troubled by some of the treatment he received from students and teachers. Ultimately, he dropped out, obtained his GED and moved to San Francisco. (more…)