Idaho lawmakers pass bills targeting LGBTQ+ citizens. Protesters toss paper hearts in protest

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers have passed a series of bills targeting LGBTQ+ residents this year, including two this week that prevent public employees from being required to use someone’s preferred pronouns and redefine gender as being synonymous with sex.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved a bill allowing people to sue schools and libraries over books deemed harmful to minors, sending it to Republican Gov. Brad Little. Another bill that Little signed into law last week prevents public funds — including Medicaid — from being used for gender-affirming care.

The efforts are part of an ongoing national battle over the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. Many Republican officials have been actively trying to limit those rights over the past several years.

The legislation in Idaho was among at least nine bills directly targeting LGBTQ+ rights that have been proposed in the state so far this year, Rebecca De León, spokesperson for the ACLU of Idaho, told the Idaho Statesman. In response to the slew of actions, protesters sent more than 48,000 colorful paper hearts raining down from the fourth floor of the Statehouse to the first-floor rotunda on Tuesday, KTVB-TV reported.

The hearts symbolized the 48,000 Idaho residents who identified as part of the LGBTQ+ population in the 2020 census. The hearts were handmade and mailed to the ACLU from 18 cities across the state.

“We wanted specifically lawmakers to be able to see the hearts and to hear what we have been trying to tell them all session,” De León told the Statesman. “It feels like they have not been listening, so we wanted to come bring the hearts to them.”

Republican Rep. Julianne Young sponsored the bill redefining gender, which refers to social and self-identity, as being synonymous with sex, which refers to biological traits. At least 12 other states have considered similar legislation this year attempting to remove nonbinary and transgender concepts from statutes. Kansas enacted a law last year ending legal recognition of transgender identities.

Idaho’s library bill allows community members to file written requests to remove materials they consider harmful to minors to an adults-only section, and gives library officials 60 days to make the change. After that point, the community member could sue for damages.

The governor vetoed a similar bill last year, saying he feared it would create a bounty system that would increase libraries’ costs, ultimately raising prices for taxpayers.

The ACLU and other opponents of the new law preventing public money from being used for gender-affirming care say it most likely will lead to a federal lawsuit. Idaho is already embroiled in lawsuits over attempts to deny gender-affirming care to transgender residents and has not had much success so far in defending them.

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