COEUR d'ALENE - Panelists representing both sides of an anti-discrimination ordinance geared at protecting homosexuals discussed why they support or oppose the ordinance Thursday at the Kroc Center during the Hayden Chamber of Commerce's membership breakfast.
Whether the Hayden City Council ever takes up the ordinance remains to be seen - nobody is proposing to pitch it that way yet - but supporters said an ordinance wouldn't harm local businesses if it did.
They also said cities are doing the right thing by taking on the measure because protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination is an issue Congress should address, but hasn't.
"It really should be at the national level," said Dan Gookin, Coeur d'Alene City Councilman who voted in favor of an anti-discrimination ordinance when Coeur d'Alene adopted its version June 4. "The purpose of our government is to protect our rights ... It's the No. 1 thing."
Joining Gookin on the panel was fellow councilman Mike Kennedy, who is often on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Gookin, but who also voted in favor of the ordinance for Coeur d'Alene. Tony Stewart, the Human Rights Task Force on Human Relations member joined the councilmen, along with Sen. Steve Vick, the Dalton Gardens Republican who sees the rule as an infringement on religious liberty and free speech, as well as an action of an overbearing government.
Vick said - as opponents did when Coeur d'Alene was considering the law - that the rule will do the opposite of what it's reportedly supposed to do. It will discriminate against those with religious beliefs, especially in the business world, by forcing them to go against their conscience for the benefit of a select few.
That runs counter to religious freedom, he said.
"It's not my intent to discriminate against any group," Vick said. "My concern is religious liberty is going to get pushed out."
So far six Idaho cities have adopted anti-discrimination ordinances. Coeur d'Alene's version is aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in areas of employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants, and housing by preventing people from discriminating against them solely based on "sexual orientation, gender identity and expression."
Stewart called Coeur d'Alene's vote "the right side of history." Kennedy echoed Gookin and Stewart's stance that it extended rights to people who otherwise don't have them. They said a rule wouldn't hamper local business, either.
Greg Jesberger, of Jan Jesberger Insurance on Government Way in Hayden, said after the meeting their business supports anti-discrimination.
We're "certainly opposed to any type of discrimination in the work place or anywhere else," he said. "We supported that resolution."
But the breakfast topic was for discussion purposes only; the issue isn't on the docket for the Hayden City Council.
Council members Roger Saterfiel and Tim Timmins said the topic isn't on the governing body's radar. Saterfiel attended the breakfast but Timmins didn't, and neither would predict which way the city would vote if it got that far.
"I would vote as my constituents would want me to vote," Saterfiel said, adding he didn't know which way that would be yet. "At this point, I have no idea."
The morning topic came one day after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's decision struck down a federal law that denied federal benefits to gay couples married under state laws.
Supporters like Gookin pointed to the federal government's involvement in same sex issues as an indication that it's only a matter of time before the feds take up the anti-discrimination protection as well.
"It will be national, it's headed that way," Gookin said. "It's a matter of time, and that time is coming soon."
Yet right now, controversy has followed the topic, locally and statewide.
Recently, Idaho's Republican Party passed a resolution at the GOP's annual Central Committee summer meeting in McCall that urges the Idaho Legislature to put a stop to local communities' efforts to provide discrimination protections for the LGBT community. And on Tuesday, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution calling for Coeur d'Alene to repeal its ordinance.
Gookin had some words for the precinct committee members voting to take such an action when asked about it after the panel discussion.
"They have no business stepping on our toes telling us to repeal an ordinance, it's way out of line," he said, calling the action a sign of "dysfunction. They have no political power whatsoever, but for some reason they think they do."
A Republican, Gookin said his support of the ordinance surprised a good portion of his base, but he didn't fret any political push back. As for the KCRCC, "they somehow think they're more important than they are," he said.