As supporters of the "Add the Words" movement continue to urge state lawmakers to update Idaho's anti-discrimination laws, a group in Pocatello has formed to protect an existing ordinance.
Thursday supporters of the ordinance explained why they think its important people get out to vote on may's referendum.
"I think what it does is it goes to the inner core of what it means to be part of a community," explained Fair Pocatello Co-Chair James Ruchti. "We need one another and that we're all in this together."
James Ruchti has spent a much of his career advocating for others working as an attorney and former state legislator. As a city wide referendum on Pocatello's non-discrimination ordinance approaches he and other members of the newly formed group Fair Pocatello are working to keep the law on the books.
"I think this issue is so compelling that i think you are going to find people from both parties and people who aren't really interested in politics at all are going to go out to the polls to address their concerns," said Ruchti.
Last June the Pocatello City Council approved amendments to the City's non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity to its protections. Then in the fall a group seeking to repeal the ordinance collected enough signatures to have the ordinance placed on May's ballot causing supporters of the ordinance to join together.
"The reason why we formed this and the reason we feel so strongly about it is because we need this here. We need to protect the rights of all the people in Pocatello," said Brenda Stanley
Protecting the rights of the LGBT community in Idaho garnered a lot of interest in recent weeks with demonstrations to "add the words" beginning at the state capitol and then spreading across the state. With state lawmakers refusing to discuss these protections, what voters in Pocatello decide this spring could have far reaching implications.
"I think its going to send big message. Not just for the state but for the entire country," Stanley added.
Ruchti agreed, "I feel like this is a fantastic opportunity for Pocatello to show that we really meant it when we said that discrimination stops at the City's doors."
To learn more about Fair Pocatello, click here.
We also reached out to the group behind the petition for a referendum on the ordinance. They issued the following statement:
"The referendum to overturn the Nondiscrimination Ordinance has always been about protecting ALL Pocatello citizens from discriminatory, oppressive law. Pocatello’s so-called “non-discrimination ordinance” legalizes and promotes discrimination and bigotry against Pocatello citizens who just want to work hard, earn a decent living and raise their families. Should your friends and neighbors in Pocatello be forced to choose between living free or making a living?
It is UNFAIR; these laws are being used across America to force private citizens to participate and/or facilitate same-sex wedding and/or commitment ceremonies and celebrations in contradiction to their beliefs when an abundance of other businesses are readily available.
It is UNFAIR; Pocatello business owners who regularly service the LGBT population without exception could face jail time and/or fines for abiding by their convictions in limited situations in which their business overlaps into the marriage industry.
It is UNFAIR; that the privacy rights of our girls and women are put into jeopardy to be abused by criminals who will exploit the law.
It is UNFAIR; that people of varying faith backgrounds are being targeted by extreme activists who are using these laws, not to protect our LGBT community, but to legalize discrimination and bigotry against people of faith who disagree with their views.
It is UNREALISTIC to expect Pocatello will not have faith based business owners, like those of Elane Photography in New Mexico, Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon and Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State, and other artists, musicians, printers, counselors, etc. who will be targeted in the future.
It is DISHONEST that the proponents of these laws don’t readily admit it is their intention to not only overturn Idaho’s marriage amendment, but to also enact state level protections, so that they may codify their view of morality and incorporate it into our public schools.
The people who ultimately will be harmed directly or indirectly by this law will be our Pocatello friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. These same people, who hold traditional beliefs, have no objections to providing jobs, housing or services to those of the LGBT community and they do not condone blatant discrimination, nor are they hateful and bigoted. Pocatello MUST REPEAL the ordinance to protect our community from the hatred, bigotry and discrimination of the extremists who want to ridicule, stigmatize and criminalize people of traditional beliefs. Join our efforts and Vote YES on Prop. 1 and REPEAL Ordinance # 2921 on May 20th."