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Gay Rights Advocates: Idaho Bills Would Upend Local Discrimination Bans

Gay rights advocates say legislation introduced this week in Idaho would undermine local anti-discrimination ordinances passed in seven Idaho cities. The new bills are aimed protecting religious people from activities they say violate their beliefs.

Republican Idaho lawmakers are responding to incidents elsewhere in the Northwest. A florist in Richland, Wash., faces lawsuits for refusing to provide the flowers for a same-sex wedding. In Oregon, investigators found a baker in Gresham who made a similar stand violated the state's civil rights laws.

Idaho doesn't have a state law protecting gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination. But Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Moscow and other towns now have local rules.

Monica Hopkins of the ACLU of Idaho says a new bill that exempts the “exercise of religion” would strip the city ordinances of their power.

“What this change means is people can use their religion to discriminate against people and actually use that as a defense in any litigation that may come from it,” she said.

A second bill would ensure professionals like doctors, nurses, teachers and counselors would not lose their license for refusing to provide a service to someone on religious grounds. The bill includes an exception for medical emergencies.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.