As the weeks pass since the Add the Words hearing, we’re left to process what happened. It’s a lot to digest. How could 21 hours of visceral, sometimes heart wrenching testimony not prompt one conservative to vote in favor of equal rights?
We heard all the arguments against adding the words: Florists, bathrooms…God.
But the one thread that linked all the arguments together was the idea of unintended consequences. In other words, if the LGBT community were given equal rights in Idaho, what ill-fate would befall florists, bathroom users and parishioners?
Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) was particularly concerned of unintended consequences, as he explained on Idaho Reports.
“As a policy maker, having been here nine years, you can start to see legislation you’ve passed and it sounded like a good idea on its face, but once it gets passed, oh I never anticipate this or I never anticipated that. So people say, ‘Why are you asking so many questions?’ Well the reason I’m asking question is because I have to be able to defend the position and I want to know will this be a problem if I pass this.”
On it’s face, Crane’s cautious philosophy of “I won’t vote for a bill if it might do something harmful we didn’t intend” seems reasonable. Yet there’s a major problem.
That’s not his philosophy.
Last week on the House floor, supporters of a “Parental Rights” bill struggled to explain exactly what it does. Eventually they settled on a claim that it would encourage parents to involve themselves in their children’s education. Tortured logic and solutions looking for answers aside, the bill’s broad, ambiguous language could easily be used as further codification of a parent’s right to withhold life-saving medical care from a child.
Crane was in the middle of the debate, supporting the bill. Later he explained that the bill was not intended to shield child abusers or religious extremists from prosecution.
“I don’t know where that angle came from, but it certainly isn’t the intent of the legislation, nor is it where the sponsor of the bill is trying to go. I think if that is indeed an unintended consequence of the law, I think you would see legislation come forward to remedy that.”
Considering how cautious Crane was regarding the unintended consequences of a bill that would give equal rights to all Idaho citizens, that’s a pretty brazen reaction to a bill that could cost children their lives. Clearly, if unintended consequences was foremost on Crane’s mind for every piece of legislation, he wouldn’t touch the “Parental Rights” bill with a 20-foot pole.
That’s a lot of dissonance, even for an Idaho Legislator. But it’s also illustrative of a broader picture. Conservative lawmakers have scrambled to find excuses for voting against Add the Words. From protecting florists to unintended consequences, their excuses have run the gamut from ridiculous to vacuous. Soon the excuses will run dry.
It’s already happened in Wyoming, where a version of Add the Words cleared the Senate and is waiting a vote in the House.
Eventually, even Idaho lawmakers will concede that there is no good reason to withhold civil rights from our family, friends, neighbors or coworkers. The day is coming. Their excuses are running out.