This editorial was published by the Idaho Statesman of Boise.
Human rights are not special rights.
One of the more puzzling arguments against Idaho’s Add the Words movement is a complaint that “we shouldn’t be giving people special rights.”
Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court affirms that we aren’t talking about “special rights.” We’re just talking about basic human rights.
Specifically, in the 6-3 ruling issued Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that people who are gay or transgender cannot be fired based on the fact that they are gay or transgender.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
Still to come must be bans on discrimination in housing, public accommodations and other facets of life.
Idaho’s Add the Words movement has been working for several years in an effort to get the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” added to the Idaho Human Rights Act, so that these individuals can be legally protected from discrimination.
“As we all know, it’s been well over a decade now that the Legislature’s been asked to protect Idahoans from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity ... and again and again and again refused to do that, often refused to even hear the question in many years,” Ritchie Eppink, legal director at ACLU of Idaho, told the Idaho Statesman. “And so I hope (Monday’s ruling) bodes well (for Add the Words). It certainly gives some Idahoans protections under federal law that were not clear and modified, essentially, by the courts before yesterday, released by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Monday’s ruling is a tremendous victory for the LGBTQ+ community and the advocates who support them — especially in light of a higher concentration of conservative Supreme Court justices, Gorsuch among them.
Idaho should take note of this milestone. Idaho’s Republican legislators should think about the state laws they are creating that seek to infringe on the liberties of their fellow Idahoans who identify as LGBTQ+. And our governor should reflect more carefully on which ones he allows to go through, such as legislation he signed prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in girls and women’s sports.
That bill drew opposition from five decades of past and present Idaho attorneys general and from a number of Idaho’s largest employers. Now, the NCAA is considering not holding part of its men’s basketball tournament in Boise, a potential hit of millions of dollars to the economy.
But even if those reasons, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling and the community members who have advocated for Add the Words amendments for years aren’t enough, then we encourage all Idahoans to reflect on their own personal morality and the moral obligation that we all have to end discrimination.
More work clearly needs to be done, and the road of application will be arduous — but worth it. It’s time for Idaho to catch up.
We hope that Idaho Gov. Brad Little doesn’t spend his time as predecessor C.L. “Butch” Otter did, declaring victory in signing a bill that then predictably loses in the courts. They call that winning the battle and losing the war, and all that accomplishes is an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Because what Monday’s Supreme Court ruling illustrates is that human rights are human rights — not special rights. Discrimination is discrimination, and discrimination in any form goes against our core principles as a country and against our Constitution.