The Idaho Add the Words Coalition today denounced Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden for signing on to a friend-of-the-court brief in three pending U.S. Supreme Court cases opposing protections for employees in three states who were fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is a cruel, unnecessary move that does nothing to strengthen our state’s economy and certainly does nothing to grow our workforce,” Mistie Tolman, Idaho state director for Planned Parenthood, a member of the coalition, said in a news release. “Our queer and trans community in Idaho want to be given the opportunity to make a living, raise their families, and live without fear in the state they love, just like everyone else.”

The coalition, which also includes the ACLU of Idaho, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Idaho Housing Justice for All and more, has pushed unsuccessfully for more than a decade to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on those bases in housing, education, employment and public accommodations. Though the proposal got a committee hearing in 2015, it’s never gotten any further.

Wasden, in a statement this afternoon, defended his move to sign on to the brief, which backs the Trump Administration’s position in cases in which three individuals claimed discrimination, including a woman who was fired for being transgender and two men who were fired for being gay.

“My signing on to this brief is not a stance against workplace protections for the LGBTQ community,” Wasden said. “Rather, my concerns are based in the rule of law and the way some courts are applying the express language of a federal law written more than five decades ago.”

“When Congress wrote and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it did not include LGBTQ protections,” Wasden said. “If these protections are to be added today, the proper way to do so is to have Congress update the Act to reflect changes in our society that have occurred over the last 55 years. After all, under our Constitution, it is a function of Congress to write federal law and not the courts.”

The cases involves two separate employment cases that have been consolidated for hearing together, plus a third to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on the same date, Oct. 8, 2019. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Friday’s edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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