Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.
Idaho Republicans Refuse to "Add the Words"
On Friday, February 10, 2012 the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee refused to even print legislation which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Dan Popkey wrote a observant column documenting the drama and the emotional plea of Senator Edgar Malapeai begging the committee to have the bill printed.
Midway through his pitch, the Pocatello Democrat stopped speaking for 25 seconds to collect himself, to the discomfort of the seven committee Republicans. Custom holds that lawmakers’ bills, especially those brought by members of leadership like Malepeai, are printed as a courtesy. This was an exception, in significant part because Republicans fear right-wing reprisals.
What Malepeai finally finished saying was this: “In my opinion, it would be profoundly disrespectful not to afford those tens of thousands of families affected by this legislation to give at least — at least — a printing of the bill ... (and) allow them to speak of the harm that’s been done.”
Five minutes later, the bill was dead on a party line vote. After the hearing, recently retained Senate Republican Caucus Chairman John McGee addressed reporters.
“This is not a new issue,” McGee said. “Nobody here believes in discrimination or discriminating against anybody.” But, he said, “I don't think we want to continue to create separate groups and separate categories for this.” He said, “I don't think that the piece of legislation that was brought before us today … changes whether or not somebody is going to discriminate. … The fact is we don't think that bill is the right thing to do.”
Idaho's existing Human Rights Act bans employment and housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion or disability. The “Add The Words” bill would have added sexual orientation and gender identity. “There's lots of groups who don't have that ability as well, so the issue becomes, where does it stop? Where do those special categories end?” McGee asked.
Ironically Senator McGee received ignoble attention last June when he got piss drunk at a Hillcrest Country Club Golf Tournament, wandered six miles barefoot, commandeered a stranger's truck, and jackknifed the truck and trailer in a neighboring driveway. While originally charged as Grand Theft, the theft charged was lowered to joyriding, and then dismissed completely, within weeks of the incident. McGee pleaded successfully with the prosecutor to dismiss the theft charge showing "medical records" demonstrating that he suffered a concussion during his drunken wandering. McGee refuses to show those medical records to the public despite repeated requests. Indeed there remain many unanswered questions.
While McGee pled guilty to the DUI, nothing shouts 'white male class privilege' more than the disparate treatment McGee obtained from the Idaho legal system on his theft charge. Moreover, Senator McGee retained his spot on senate leadership after a vote closed to the public, giving him a pass on his conduct unbecoming, not just an average citizen, but a state senator. In other words this "privilege" accorded the ruling class is institutional. They protect their own. For McGee to argue that he opposes legislation to give "special categories" the benefit of legal protection in the workplace or in buying a home, means he is woefully uninformed as to the obstacles the gay and transgendered face. But since they voted to not even print the bill, that evidence will not come before his committee. They look not for the special treatment Senator McGee received, just to be free from being fired or losing housing opportunities because of who they are.
UPDATE 2/13: To put a fine point on it.