The afterglow of Mother’s Day is a particularly meaningful time to apply the standard of “What if the person being denied basic human rights were your child?” The opportunity to right a terrible wrong against some people in our community rests with the Idaho Falls City Council this evening.
Tonight, the council will vote on whether to extend public accommodation protections that have been extended to others on the basis of, you name it — race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, and mental or physical disability — for the LGBTQ population, many of whom are our community’s youth.
There are those of us who are old enough remember when essentially all members of the LGBTQ community were shamefully forced to hide their gender identities and sexual orientation. In 1998 University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured and left to die and did six days later from severe head injuries. In 2012 Boston Celtics power forward Jason Collins wore jersey number 98 to honor Shepard and came out as gay himself the following year. By 2019 Megan Rapinoe’s sexual orientation was not controversial but part of her stunning talent as the captain of the inspiring U.S. women’s soccer World Cup champions.
Without amending the Idaho Falls ordinance code, any public business in Idaho Falls could legally deny service to Pete Buttigieg, Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Michael Kors, film directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski, David Geffen, Emma Gonzalez or Idaho District 13 Senate candidate Melissa Sue Robinson for being LGBTQ or nonbinary, or to anyone for that matter on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Without the amendment, straight people, who, of course, have a sexual orientation, could, theoretically, be denied service at a restaurant open to the public. Most would see that as flagrantly unfair and a violation of equal protection. Recognizing the basic human right of public accommodations for the LGBTQ community is manifestly fair, provides equal protection, and requires passage of the amendment.
At colleges and universities today, millennials and younger generations accept LGBTQ or nonbinary gender identity as part of life. “Radical social change” has occurred “without any court’s permission,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the court in the 1972 landmark case Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Ginsburg was arguing for new precedent to end discriminatory laws on the basis of sex because such laws are “obstacles for our children’s aspirations”— and violate equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Ginsburg urged the court to “protect the right of the country to change.”
Tonight’s vote for LGBTQ public accommodations should be easy for council members on the basis of being long overdue. Amending the ordinance will update city laws to match now pervasive societal change — a right the council needs to protect. In 2020 inclusion is already here. Those who wish to pretend otherwise are fighting a losing battle against progress, tarnishing Idaho’s reputation and betraying the core value of treating others as you would have them treat you, or your children.