Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden signs onto brief asking the Supreme Court to rule it is legal to fire LGBTQ+ people
BOISE — Idaho’s Add the Words Coalition is denouncing Idaho’s Attorney General Lawrence Wasden signing onto an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on August 23, 2019. The friend-of-the-court brief encourages this country’s highest court to rule against three individuals who were fired for being LGBTQ+. The three cases include the first transgender civil rights case to be heard by the high court.
“Once again, Attorney General Wasden has shown that he is out-of-touch with the majority of Idahoans who support the idea that no one should be fired because of who they are,” says Mistie Tolman, Idaho state director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “This is a cruel, unnecessary move that does nothing to strengthen our state’s economy and certainly does nothing to grow our workforce. If President Trump and AG Wasden get their way at the Supreme Court, it will give the Trump administration the license to take even more dangerous and harmful actions against LGBTQ+ community members, including putting children and families at risk. Our queer and trans community in Idaho want to be given the opportunity to make a living, raise their families, and live without fear in the state they love, just like everyone else.”
The employees in the SCOTUS cases, including ACLU clients Aimee Stephens who was fired for being transgender and Don Zarda who was fired for being gay, have argued that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is unlawful sex discrimination. A number of federal appeals courts have said that the Civil Rights Act and other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination apply to LGBTQ+ people, as have dozens of state and district courts.
For over a decade, Idaho’s Add the Words Coalition has advocated for Idaho’s legislature to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho’s Human Rights Act. By doing so, LGBTQ+ Idahoans would be protected from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Idaho lawmakers have heard hours of stories not only of discrimination, but also of Idahoans living in fear every day. Over one hundred people testified for over 20 hours in support of Add the Words in the only public hearing the bill received.
Some cities in Idaho enacted non-discrimination ordinances providing protections to their residents. However, this patchwork of protections leaves too many Idahoans still at risk of being discriminated against elsewhere in the state. Attorney General Wasden’s proactive step to sign onto a legal brief that would allow individual employers to freely discriminate against LGBTQ+ people is an absolute failure of our state leadership, leaving countless Idahoans vulnerable to discrimination.
On a national level, the United State Supreme Court ruling in favor of the fired employees would be just one step towards achieving comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community nationwide.
“With the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ equality, the need to pass the Equality Act to provide comprehensive, express federal protections for LGBTQ+ people nationwide is greater than ever,” says Chelsea Ganoa-Lincoln, Chair of Add the Words Idaho. “Federal law doesn’t currently prohibit sex discrimination in some critical areas, like public accommodations and federally-funded programs, so no matter what the Supreme Court says, we also will need Congress to act to provide such protections for LGBTQ+ people and for all women.”
The coalition is disappointed that statewide officials are choosing to use their platform to further harm an already marginalized community, but pledges to continue advocating until Add the Words becomes law, protecting all Idahoans from discrimination.
The three SCOTUS cases will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 8.