'Please,' Add the Words

Cd'A rally one of several across the state to protect gay, transgender Idahoans

Rachel Maughan, director of marketing at the Human Rights Education Institute, takes a picture of Laurie Hassell with her note supporting the Add the Words campaign.

COEUR d'ALENE - Laurie Hassell held the sticky note up for all to see and read, because she had a message to share:

"Please add the words," it read.

"I said please," the Coeur d'Alene woman said, smiling.

She was one of about 15 people who attended a rally Saturday night at the Human Rights Education Institute voicing their opposition to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

There were similar events statewide. Participants held candlelight vigils, signed notes that will be posted on the doors of the House and Senate chambers in the Capitol Building, held signs and listened to guest speakers as part of the "Add the Words" campaign.

Add the Words, Idaho is a volunteer organization working to demonstrate the level of public support for inclusion of gay and transgender Idahoans in the state's laws banning discrimination in employment, housing education and public accommodation.

It hopes the state will eventually pass legislation to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's Human Rights Act.

Hassell said it's time.

"If Idaho is going to consider themselves the human rights state, I think that means we can't discriminate against any of our citizens," she said.

Tony Stewart, secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said people shouldn't expect this to be easy. They'll have to be insistent with legislators, and they can't give up.

"Determination is very, very important when you're dealing with issues of people's rights," he said.

Jennifer Whitney, field organizer for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, believes in the grassroots effort for legislation to end discrimination.

"People are excited," she said.

She said it will be critical that Idahoans let legislators know they want to see change. That's why she asked people to let their pictures be taken, and put their faces behind the messages they wrote on Saturday.

Organizers say they're already making a difference.

"Thank you for being part of the amazing progress this year in legislators' attitudes toward gay people," said an email from Add the Words supporters.

"We can finally end the fear and legal discrimination still faced by so many of our gay and transgender family members and friends," it said.

The U.S., Stewart said, has come far when it comes to equality, freedom and justice.

"But we're not through," he said.

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