'Add the Words' testimony to continue Tuesday

BOISE -- Hundreds of Idahoans flocked to the Statehouse Monday to testify in front of lawmakers concerning a bill that would include sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the state's Human Rights Act.

The legislation, commonly called the "Add the Words" bill, had been denied a public hearing for nine consecutive years.

On Monday, 70 people testified before the House State Affairs Committee during two sessions. Comments were evenly split for and against the bill.

According to the Sergeant at Arms office, more than 260 people signed up throughout the day to address committee members on the issue.

More: 'Add the Words' hearing starts Monday morning

Testifiers filled every seat in the Lincoln Auditorium in the Idaho Capitol as well as three overflow rooms to start the day.

The hearing started at 8 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m. as representatives had to be on the House floor. During the morning session about 30 people spoke for and against House Bill 2.

If passed, the bill would add protections to Idaho law for gay and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations.

"Discrimination against our LGBT family, friends, neighbors and co-workers in housing, employment and safety is morally and ethically wrong," said Sylvia Charition, American Association of University Women.

"I think we can all agree that every person, every Idahoan deserves to be treated fairly and with respect, but we must not pass a law that undermines our basic freedoms and dictates which beliefs are acceptable or not in the marketplace," said Hannah Disselkoen.

Committee members say they've only made a small dent in the number of people who want to testify.

The process worked a lot like that of a baseball line-up where the chairman would announce who was next to testify and who was on desk to help make the process go a little faster, as many people had testimony to present to the committee.

Republican state Rep. Tom Loertscher did not designate a time limit for each speaker, but he urged everyone to keep their comments short because of the large number of people wanting to testify.

The hearing resumed at 5:00 p.m. Monday night and continued until about 9:15 p.m.

Anyone who signed up to testify on House Bill 2 and didn't get the chance Monday was asked to return Tuesday morning when the hearing resumes at 8:30 a.m.


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