Writings and observations

State of perpetual embarassment

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

With the exception of Idaho, when Northwest states make the national news, it’s most often because something of national import has happened in our Northwest backyard that everyone else should know about. Something legitimately of news value or of extraordinary human interest. Again, most often, with the exception of Idaho.

When Idaho makes the national media, you can just about always bet the farm it’s because of someone – or something – outrageous, doing something counter to accepted behavior or being an embarrassment to themselves or the country-at-large. This week, it’s been too many of the Idaho public testifying ridiculously before a legislative committee that appeared to be ready to “deep six” the bill even before the hearings.

At issue are four words: “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The legislation would add those words to Idaho’s Human Rights Act which already prohibits discrimination for many other reasons i.e. religion, race, etc.. That’s it. Straight forward as that. No hype. No confusion. No B.S..

The problem is – and this is where the embarrassment comes in – the two days of testimony about those four words have drawn some of the craziest, off-the-wall, bigoted, ignorant, irrelevant, belligerent, nonsensical, dumbest and – in too many cases – fact-less voices ever to step before a microphone.

It isn’t that people who oppose the legislation should not be heard or given a chance to make their points to a legitimate panel of lawmakers. Far from it. Step up. Order your facts. Put your written remarks on the podium. Adjust the mike for your comfort. Speak your mind. Have at it. That’s what a hearing is for.

But that’s not what’s happened. I refuse to – and I won’t – repeat all the strange, baseless, hypocritical, phony moralizing, self-defeating, contradictory and demeaning arguments offered. No, Sir! Won’t do it.

But if you watched or listened to most of the two days of the hearing, you could sum up the pro and con arguments in two ways. Generally, those supporting adding the words to the Act talked of love, equality, sharing, respect, civil rights and fairness. Those against – and again, this is from listening to what was said – talked of hidden, powerful homosexual agendas, continuing and protecting the right to reject food, shelter or business from people not entirely like themselves. They talked of anti-gay printers being forced to print flyers for gay customers or gay bakers putting poison in cakes of anti-gay Idahoans.

Other voices opposing came from other states, claiming to represent “American family-supporting organizations” with messages of members claiming to be “God fearing” and “God loving.” But their testimony spoke of “homosexual treacheries” and “predators searching out innocent children” and other traditional boogeymen to be feared if each Idahoans is given legal protection to share in rights afforded all other Idahoans.

Now, I’m one who loves irony. And here it comes. Several legislators up on the dias were Mormon. Proud, practicing Mormons. Some of whom have previously talked of allowing discrimination approved by their Church to drive their person and legislative views.

But during Tuesday’s hearing – same hour exactly – several Mormon officials at the very top of the Church’s hierarchy, held a press conference in Salt Lake City to announce Church support for gays, homosexuals and people of other races. They called it a “balanced approach” when dealing with such things as housing and employment regardless of race and gender.

“We must all learn to live with others who don’t share the same belief’s and values,” was the message. And they condemned “centuries of discrimination” in all forms.

To me, that’s I-R-O-N-Y in all capital letters!

Now, that’s not to say the Mormon Church is free of all discriminatory beliefs and practices in its own history. No, Sir. Even participants in the SLC presentation talked of retaining some of the old ways and said the Church wanted to continue discriminating in employment and other areas.

But, the important thing is, the LDS Church has apparently taken several pretty large steps to come into line with life today in which gay marriage is legal in 34 states – more coming – and more major corporations and federal/state governments are removing policy barriers of all types.

If you were one of those Mormon legislators up on that dias, did you just hear Moroni’s trumpet sound? Is that bill before you as cut-and-dried and doomed to the round file as it was just the day before? Whatdya think?

It may be too late to save Idaho from yet another well-publicized – and well-earned – round of public embarrassment in the national media. But it’s not too late to rethink what just the day before was a foregone conclusion.

Ah, irony.

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