Our responsibility as representatives of the people is to make decisions that make life better for Idahoans. Our legislation should be rooted in concern and compassion for our community. As a state representative, one of my chief priorities is supporting the mental health of all Idahoans, including the LGBTQ community. Members of the LGBTQ community in Idaho have been ignored for too long. Idaho loses too many lives to suicide every year – we currently hold the 5th highest suicide rate in the country. We must take action for the safety of all Idahoans, including LGBTQ Idahoans.
Important legislation that could significantly improve the quality of life for LGBTQ Idahoans still awaits a hearing. Add the Words, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, would protect LGBTQ Idahoans from discrimination in housing, employment, and in public services. Failing to pass Add the Words makes LGBTQ Idahoans, in spite of being hard workers and good tenants, vulnerable to losing their jobs and being kicked out of their homes for simply being who they are. All Idahoans deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes and jobs, and we must ensure that no one worries about having a roof over their head or food on the table.
Suicide rates in Idaho continue to be some of the highest in the country, and the LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable. To improve mental health of LGBTQ youth, I have introduced legislation to support these young people. I recently brought HB 482 forward to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy in Idaho. The harms of conversion therapy contribute to Idaho’s growing suicide problem, and this legislation helps mitigate that tragic outcome.
The House recently targeted Idaho’s transgender community with discriminatory legislation. House Bill 509 would prohibit Idahoans from making necessary changes to their birth certificate. We make these corrections for life changing events such as adoptions. Research shows that transgender individuals lacking an accurate gender marker are more prone to be harassed, denied services, and otherwise discriminated against. Instead of fostering compassion in Idaho, HB 509 divides our communities and further disenfranchises an Idaho population already facing too much adversity. Transgender Idahoans depend on accurate legal documents to access basic services like driving a car. House Bill 509 simply is not the Idaho way.
Additional anti-LGBTQ legislation circulating the statehouse, House Bill 500, would require all female athletes in public high schools to undergo invasive “internal and external examination of reproductive organs” and other medical tests just to play sports. The bill specifically targets transgender athletes yet hurts the lives of all girls and women who wish to participate in public school sports. As an educator and a legislator, I aspire to foster inclusivity and to safeguard activities that promote academic achievement and wellness in students across the state. Participation in extracurriculars increases grades and promotes confidence, self-worth and overall health. In contrast, this bill eliminates opportunities to participate in sports for many girls across the state, cutting them off from those positive benefits. It requires costly and invasive doctor visits and actually encourages poor sportsmanship. Rather than putting our already vulnerable LGBTQ community at even more risk, we need to focus back on constituent compassion.
The Legislature bears the responsibility to protect all citizens of Idaho and to provide equity and justice to those who need it most. Idaho’s LGBTQ community needs and deserves safety and well-being. I ask the Legislature to join me in supporting our LGBTQ citizens and to focus our legislation back on concern and compassion for our communities.