Idaho Governor Clement Leroy “Butch” Otter made this statement this week as he was sworn in for his third term in office.
“Where we draw the line is having others’ views imposed on us as mandates out of misguided political correctness or a lack of respect for our history, traditions and values.”
I heard that on the news and wondered who was imposing what on whom.
Because of his “closely held religious beliefs”, by continuing to fight against marriage equality, Otter continues to impose his views on Idahoans who are gay and lesbian and who want to be married. Marriage equality actually does nothing to threaten Otter’s second heterosexual marriage. Yet because he seems to have a “lack of respect for” the “history, traditions, and values” of people who support equality, he is trying to take the battle all the way to the Supreme Court, at a huge cost to Idahoans. It has already cost us at least $457,000, with no indication of success from any of the attempts.
As the Idaho legislature begins it 2015 session, 67 percent of Idahoans believe it should be against the law to discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian, transgender and are hoping the legislature will Add the Words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the state Civil Rights Act. This is the 9th legislative session we will have been seeking to even get a hearing on a bill to Add the Words. The legislative leadership has imposed their values on the legislative agenda, even as a sizable majority of the citizens they claim to represent have asked them to change.
There are indications we might get the hearing this time around, but it apparently will come with strings attached.
Republican leaders indicated this may also be the year they consider an “add the words” bill. Gay rights activists have been pushing the legislature to enact a statewide ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said it remains to be seen whether either side will compromise. “But,” he added, “let’s have a discussion now and see if people are ready to do that.”
(full article here)
While I don’t know exactly what Senator Hill means when he talks about compromise, I’m willing to make a prediction. I suspect he and other people opposed to Add the Words mean that in order to pass non-discrimination legislation, they will want exemptions for people with “deeply held religious beliefs”.
Representative Lynn Luker tried to do that last year. I wrote about it here.
Of course, that sort of “compromise” is not a compromise. Telling conservative Christians that they don’t have to obey state law and are free to discriminate against people at work, in housing, and in the market place because of religious beliefs gives all of the privilege to one group of people, and offers none of the protection to the group that has faced discrimination.
Not much of a compromise.
To be clear, if churches and other houses of worship want to discriminate against people who are gay and lesbian, that is, unfortunately, their religious right. Add the Words is not about how people behave in religious settings. It is about how they behave in society. Who is not allowed to enter your business? Who is not allowed to rent an apartment from a landlord? Who is not allowed to be hired at a company. You can discriminate against people on Sunday (although I would argue that is a bad religious practice that reveals bad theology), but in the public sphere, discrimination ought not be protected and codified into law.
Compromise is when two people or groups, with an equal amount of power and control of the situation, each give concession to reach a common ground and find space in the middle.
When the legislative leaders, who have complete and total control over the agenda, say to 67 percent of Idahoans who have zero control over the legislative agenda, that both sides need to compromise, how does that work? The legislative leadership gives up on not letting the legislative process play out as the constitution allows and we give up on the idea that Idahoans should not face discrimination in housing, at work, and in the marketplace? That’s no compromise. That’s legislative extortion.
As the legislature goes to work for the 2015 session, pay attention to the words they use. “Impose” and “compromise”–you keep using those words. I don’t think think they mean what you think they mean.