BOISE — A central Idaho lawmaker, who compared being gay with owning slaves, backed out of a public forum with an gay and transgender activist Monday. Meanwhile, House leadership announced a measure urging Congress to impeach judges who rule in favor of marriage equality is dead.

Rep. Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins) agreed to participate in a public forum last week after he was presented an invitation signed by 200 individuals.

See Shepherd agree to the forum in this piece from the Idaho Statesman.

Chelsea Gaona Lincoln of Caldwell requested the forum on Wednesday, March 26, after Shepherd was the floor sponsor of House Joint Memorial 4 (HJM 4), which urges Congress to impeach judges who rule in favor of marriage equality. During his arguments for the measure, Shepherd said that like slave owners, gays were decent people who made terrible decisions

“Slave owners were very good Christians and good people … They weren’t terrible rotten horrible people … And that’s how I see gay people.”

Lincoln, a member of the gay and transgender community, sought a public forum to calm the rhetoric and dispel fear.

“This was something both sides needed,” Lincoln said. “We’re all people, and when we meet face-to-face, civility tends to rule the day.”

Five days after Shepherd agreed to the public forum, Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) announced that Shepherd will not participate.

“He has no animosity,” Crane said of Shepherd. “He is not going to do a town hall (style meeting).”

However, Crane did announce that HJM 4, which passed the House on a 44-25 vote, was dead in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

“Sen. McKenzie has no intentions of moving it forward,” Crane said.

Meanwhile, Lincoln said she was delighted with the outpouring of support from throughout the state and the country. To date, more than 500 people have signed the invitation. She’s also happy that HJM 4 is dead.

“I consider it an olive branch,” she said. “I’m hoping that this will lead to a much healthier dialog on the issues of civil rights.”

The Shepherd controversy caught national attention after a gay and transgender activist bought Shepherd’s campaign website after it expired, turning it into a gay and transgender resource site. The activist, Dylan Hailey, said he would give the website back to Shepherd if he participated in the forum.