You should not be fired for being black, being a woman, being Mormon or being gay. This is an Idaho value that nearly all Idahoans share. And yet, every year, Idahoans are fired for who they love. They are qualified for their jobs, hardworking and highly-skilled but terminated because an employer feels the right to judge them.

Mat Erpelding

Mat Erpelding

Idahoans have been working for years to convince the legislature to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Under current law, LGBTQ individuals can be fired, kicked out of housing or denied public accommodations without any options for legal recourse. Creating protections for LGBTQ individuals recently became an issue on the national stage when the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case of three individuals who were fired by their employers due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In an effort to support the few employers who ruin lives based on their bias toward an employee’s personal lives, Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, submitted a brief asking the Supreme Court to rule against individuals who were fired because of their identity. He argues that because the law does not explicitly state that LGBTQ individuals should be protected from being fired, an employer has the right to fire them.

To be clear, the attorney general is not required to submit a brief. In fact, it is very rare for him to submit an amicus brief. He went out of his way to tell Idahoans, and the nation, that he does not believe in protecting hardworking Idahoans and that he does not care about the economic impact.

For over a decade, Idahoans have been asking their representatives to protect their basic human rights — mainly stable, safe access to housing and employment and to be able to contribute and thrive in the state they love. Hundreds of Idahoans have come to the statehouse with their stories of heinous discrimination, but every year they are dismissed and left to fend for themselves.

Idaho representatives have told their constituents again and again that they do not care if you have housing or employment if your partner looks different than theirs. They do not care if you can’t afford to put food on the table because an employer judged you for being gay. They do not care if you have a place for your children to sleep because you were kicked out of your apartment because of your identity. Idaho representatives are not willing to protect our fundamental rights if you are not the person they expect you to be — and now they want to stop national attempts.

Many Idahoans are living in fear every day because of who they are. LGBTQ Idahoans are valuable human beings and assets to the economy who are trying to achieve security for their families. They work hard and contribute to the success of our communities. The U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to create protections for one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, and our state is urging them to continue the abuse. State-sanctioned abuse of any kind is unacceptable.

We are wasting precious government resources because of the intolerance of a select few politicians.

Rep. Matt Erpelding, D-Boise, is the Idaho House minority leader.