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

BOISE, Idaho– Idaho lawmakers have passed a series of bills this year targeting LGBTQ+ residents, including two this week that would prevent officials from being required to use a person’s preferred pronouns and redefine gender as synonymous with sex.

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

The efforts are part of an ongoing national fight over the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. Many Republican officials have actively tried to limit these rights in recent years.

The Idaho legislation is among at least nine bills directly aimed at 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 series of actions, protesters sent more than 48,000 colorful paper hearts raining from the fourth floor of the Statehouse to the first floor rotunda on Tuesday, KTVB-TV reported.

The hearts symbolized the 48,000 Idahoans who identified as part of the LGBTQ+ population in the 2020 census. The hearts were made by hand and shipped to the ACLU from 18 cities across the state.

“We specifically wanted lawmakers to see the hearts and hear what we were trying to tell them all session,” De León told the Statesman. “It feels like they haven’t been listening, so we wanted to come and take the hearts to them.”

Republican Rep. Julianne Young sponsored the bill that redefines gender, which refers to social identity and self-identity, as synonymous with sex, which refers to biological traits. At least a dozen other states have considered similar legislation this year in an effort to remove non-binary and transgender concepts from statutes. Kansas passed a law last year ending legal recognition of transgender identities.

Idaho library law allows community members to submit written requests to remove material they deem harmful to minors to an adults-only section, and gives library officials 60 days to make the change. The community member can then claim compensation.

The governor vetoed a similar bill last year because he feared it would create a reward system that would raise the cost of libraries, ultimately raising prices for taxpayers.

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