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Coeur d’Alene Idaho police arrest armed extremists protesting Pride event

Creating concern for law enforcement was the counter-Pride rally held by the North Idaho motorcycle club, Panhandle Patriots Riding Club

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Self-described 'street preacher' who protested Pride is arrested by Coeur d’Alene police (Screenshot/Twitter video)

COEUR d’ ALENE, Id. – Heavily armed Coeur d’Alene police officers and Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear arrested armed anti-LGBTQ+ protestors, and a few self-labeled ‘street preachers’ who were attempting to disrupt the “Pride in the Park” in Coeur d’Alene City Park which returned after a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that Coeur d’Alene police officers and Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Lee White, the police chief of the Coeur d’Alene police department said those arrested were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Patriot Front was once known as Vanguard America (VA), one of the main organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon, said Lee. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said at a news conference.

Many of those arrested were wearing logos representing Patriot Front, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

Idaho Police Arrest 31 White Nationalists In Back of U-Haul:

Also creating concern for law enforcement and the Pride Alliance which sponsored the event was the counter-Pride rally held by the North Idaho motorcycle club, Panhandle Patriots Riding Club, which had announced the rally last month on the group’s Facebook page.

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Spokane, Washington’s ABC News affiliate KXLY 4 reporter Elenee Dao retweeted images of those detained by law enforcement from her colleague Aodhan Brown.

ABC News affiliate KXLY 4 photojournalist Aodhan Brown/Twitter

Freelance journalist Ford Fischer also recorded some of the protestors as they moved through downtown Coeur d’Alene:

Fran Hutchins, Executive Director of Equality Federation reacted to the news of the arrests in a press statement provided to the Blade:

“This is beyond terrifying. These white supremacists traveled to Idaho specifically to harm LGBTQ+ people. This isn’t a random event. This is what happens when legislators pass laws saying it is okay to discriminate against and cause substantial harm to LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender young people. 

The mere existence of LGBTQ+ people is under increasing attack from violent and extremist politicians and their supporters. When our states and towns make it illegal for trans youth to play sports or receive gender-affirming care, anti-LGBTQ+ individuals feel empowered. 

These extremists drove from 11 different states to terrorize LGBTQ+ people. Just weeks ago, another white supremacist drove all the way to a Buffalo supermarket to murder Black people. Over a year ago, fascists and white supremacists tried to violently take over our nation’s capital. And exactly six years ago today, 49 lives were stolen from us in the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ people in our country’s history. 

Racism, domestic terrorism, anti-LGBTQ+ violence – some of the greatest threats in America are all inextricably linked. We cannot stand by as white supremacists try to violently grasp onto their last remaining strings of power. By coming together, we can elect leaders who know our worth and are willing to prove it by passing legislation to save all of our lives and protect us from this violence and hatred.”

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Idaho

Idaho bill prohibiting public drag performances to be introduced 

Idaho Family Policy Center helped draft legislation asking state lawmakers to prohibit drag performances from public places

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The Idaho House of Representatives conducts its business from the House chambers at the Statehouse in Boise on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

By Kelcie Moseley-Morris | BOISE – A bill that would ban drag performances in all public venues will be introduced in the first days of the next session of the Idaho Legislature in January, Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti told the Idaho Capital Sun.

Conzatti and other conservative activists around Idaho and across the country have protested against events in public spaces that feature drag queens, including drag queen story hour events at public libraries. In September, Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon called for people to pressure corporate sponsors of Boise Pride to pull their names from sponsorship at the event over a scheduled “Drag Kids” performance for ages 11 to 18, which was ultimately postponed over safety concerns.

Conzatti said the draft bill is ready to be introduced as soon as the session gets underway but declined to share the text of the bill with the Sun and wouldn’t name the legislators who worked on it with him.

“No child should ever be exposed to sexual exhibitions like drag shows in public places, whether that’s at a public library or a public park,” he said.

Conzatti also cites a drag performance in Coeur d’Alene in June as another example of public indecency, when a performer was accused of exposing himself during a Pride in the Park event. After complaints, the local prosecutor’s office determined the video was edited to look like the performer had exposed himself when he had not. The performer has since filed a defamation lawsuit against North Idaho blogger Summer Bushnell over the incident, according to reporting from the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Group cites section of Idaho Constitution as basis for law

The Idaho Family Policy Center circulated a petition leading up to Boise Pride asking state lawmakers to prohibit drag performances from public places, citing a section of the Idaho Constitution that states the first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people and the purity of the home. It says the Legislature should “further all wise and well-directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.”

“There were many Supreme Court decisions from the 19th century dealing with public virtue and how sexual practices should not take place in public because it degraded public virtue,” Conzatti said.

In Conzatti’s opinion, drag is inherently a sexualized caricature of gender, which he compared to racist blackface practices that were a common practice in theater up until the last 50 years. He recognized that might be an offensive comparison to some. 

“You overemphasize certain natural characteristics so much that it becomes a caricature of itself,” he said.

More than 3,500 people signed the petition, according to a newsletter from the Idaho Family Policy Center, and more than 26,000 emails were sent to corporate sponsors of Boise Pride over the course of a day and a half.

Longtime drag performer says sexualized characterizations are insulting

Boise resident Crispin Gravatt has performed drag for more than a decade under the stage name Penelope Windsor in all types of venues, including drag story time at libraries and at Boise Pride in September. 

“At its core, drag is art, and art can be powerful,” Gravatt said. “For a lot of us it’s a way to be part of a community and do something fun and creative. For me and for my friends, it’s kind of like art therapy, the same kind of thing we see with veterans or abuse survivors. It’s a way we can find joy and work through some of the challenges in a world that can be challenging at times for people like me.” 

To Gravatt, drag is no different from original Shakespearean theater performances when men played women on stage and women played men, or the way a clown entertains a crowd. The misinformation about drag that is spreading is harmful, they said, because many people don’t know what drag actually is and end up believing something that isn’t true.

“It’s a little insulting that these folks think people like me don’t know how to act appropriately for where we’re at,” they said. “In my experience being in this community performing, producing, going to shows, and just celebrating who I am and who my community is, it’s weird to see that such a small group of people has made it so far in what they are trying to do, because 99% of people I meet all over the state – they think it’s a either a fun creative outlet or something that may not be for them, but isn’t a threat.” 

Boise Pride director hopes to see pushback if bill is introduced

Boise Pride Executive Director Donald Williamson also received thousands of protesting emails in the days leading up to the event. He said he is aware of the draft bill and thinks it would be a violation of free speech to ban a certain type of performance, despite Conzatti’s assertions that it will be legally defensible if it passes the Legislature and is subsequently challenged in court.

“It’s just wrong on so many levels,” Williamson said. “If you don’t agree with the performances, then you don’t go. It’s just like any other venue. It’s why I don’t go to country music concerts; it’s not my cup of tea.”

Williamson spent several years as a bartender at a drag club in Oregon, and said drag was not built on a sexualized foundation.

“It was meant as a means of expressing your identity that maybe you didn’t have the ability to do in your public life, as a form of expression and empowerment,” he said. “Obviously like any other form of entertainment, there’s going to be some sexualizing in one way or another. … There’s a difference between a drag show that you and I might see if we decided to go see a drag show on a Friday or Saturday night with a cover charge, versus a drag show on a Sunday afternoon at a park in front of the public.”

Williamson said Boise Pride is planning an alternative kids’ drag show at a private venue for a later date so that the performers’ family and friends can attend and the work the performers put in doesn’t go to waste.

If the bill is introduced as planned, Williamson said he expects a lot of pushback, and he hopes those who showed up for Boise Pride will show up to the statehouse or contact their representatives.

“Show up and show out huge, not only when we see this legislation, but any legislation that’s targeting anybody that’s hateful or hurtful and is going to affect vast swaths of the population in a negative way.”

*********************

Portrait of Kelcie Moseley-Morris taken in Boise on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.

*********************

The preceding article was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more.

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Idaho man charged with multiple felonies in anti-LGBTQ attacks

Evidence shows suspect may be involved in other recent crimes targeting the LGBTQ+ community as detectives continue their investigation

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Matthew Lehigh booking photo vis Ada County, Idaho Sheriff's office

BOISE, Id. – Police have charged a 31-year-old man with four felonies in connection with attacks on Boise’s LGBTQ+ community including an act of arson in Boise’s North End where an LGBTQ+ progress flag was burned.

The Boise Police Department’s LGBTQ Liaison officer Dan Lister told media outlet NBC affiliate KTVB 7 that Boise resident Matthew Lehigh faces three counts of felony aggravated assault. The charges stem from two separate occasions he yelled homophobic slurs and tried to hit three people with his car and a charge of misdemeanor malicious injury to property.

Lehigh also has a felony charge of arson in connection to the incident in Boise’s North End where an LGBTQ+ progress flag was burned. BPD’S Lister told KTVB 7 evidence shows Lehigh could be involved in other recent crimes targeting the LGBTQ+ community, prompting detectives to continue their investigation.

“Since his arrest, we’ve been able to add additional charges of arson in relation to the flag burning that occurred. And we’re continuing our investigation with other recent incidents of targeting. But we have been able to add that charge on to him for the incident that occurred there,” Lister told KTVB 7. “These people are being targeted just for who they are, and it’s not right,” he added.

image of burned LGBTQ Progress flag in Boise’s North End. (Screenshot/KTVB)

According to the Boise Police Department press release:

On 10/12/2022 around 2:08 pm Boise Police responded to a report of a hit and run on the 1000 block of N. Americana Blvd.  Evidence showed a male driver yelled a threat and a homophobic slur at two women.  The women were standing next to their vehicle when the suspect intentionally drove his car at them, the women quickly moved out of the way and the suspect’s vehicle struck the victim’s vehicle.  The suspect then fled the scene.

Officers immediately began searching for the suspect and his vehicle.  Detectives from the Violent Crime Unit located the vehicle and the suspect in a parking lot on the 8200 block of W. Fairview Ave. around 4:30 p.m.  The suspect was identified as Matthew Lehigh.

Detectives had been searching for Lehigh since he and his vehicle were involved in another similar incident on 10/8/2022 on the 700 block of S. Capitol Blvd. Evidence showed the suspect hit a victim on the arm and used the same homophobic slur.  A member of the business’ security staff followed the suspect into the parking lot.  Evidence shows the suspect then intentionally drove his vehicle toward the security staff member forcing him to jump out of the way.  The suspect then fled the scene.

Lehigh was booked into the Ada County Jail and charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault and misdemeanor injury to property.

Lister was able to confirm the existence of Lehigh’s YouTube channel, which shows posts just days before his arrest. His videos show him using threatening language against the LGBTQ+ community, specifically gay and transgender citizens.

Lehigh will not be charged with a hate crime KTVB reported. Malicious harassment is the hate crime statute in Idaho, however, this arrest doesn’t fit the wording of the Idaho statute.

Idaho code 18-7902 says malicious harassment targeting includes a “person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.” Targeting someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity is not included in the law. Police cannot arrest for it specifically and prosecutors can’t charge, because of how the law is written.

Lehigh was ordered a competency evaluation by the Ada County, Idaho District Court. He has a preliminary trial on Oct. 26.

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Boise Pride cancels drag show after GOP state chair’s rant

Boise Pride later cancelled plans for the drag show- the decision was made because of safety concerns for the children and their parents

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Courtesy of Boise Pride Festival

BOISE, Id. – The Boise Pride Festival, which occurs this weekend, lost three sponsors after the chair of the Idaho Republican Party Dorothy Moon released a statement claiming the companies involved were financing the “sexualization of our children. Organizers also cancelled a family-friendly children’s drag show event.

Moon, a serving member of the Idaho House of Representatives in addition to her GOP chair, has a lengthy record of far-right political ideology. In her statement issued earlier this past week, Moon criticized Boise Pride Festival’s sponsors for encouraging the “sexualization” of children.

Idaho NPR reported that “instead of bringing “investment and jobs” to Idaho,” Moon said, “…they are financing the sexualization of our children and the perverse idea that children should engage in sexual performances with adult entertainers.” The GOP lawmaker was taking specific aim at a kids ages 11-18 drag show that was planned. She said the festival’s sponsors should “disavow this attack on Idaho’s children” and instead redirect their donations to the Boise Rescue Mission.

In a tweet Moon showed a picture of herself outside a Boise branch of Wells Fargo, a sponsor of Boise Pride which did not withdraw its support of the weekend festival.

As a result of Moon’s statement, the Idaho Statesman newspaper reported that Zions Bank withdrew its sponsorship followed by both Idaho Power and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Zions Bank said it wasn’t aware of the Kids Drag event when it partnered with Boise Pride Festival and withdrew its participation.

Despite that, the bank said its support for its employees and the LGBTQ community “remains unchanged.”

Boise Pride later cancelled plans for the drag show telling the paper the decision was made because of safety concerns for the children and their parents.

“The kids who were going to perform have the enthusiastic support of their community and support and consent of their parents,” organizers said in the statement. “We support the kids 1000% and their choice to be themselves, stand their truth and express themselves. They are brave, beautiful and deserve their chance to be in the spotlight, and we want to give that to them at a later date.”

Riley Burrows, co-producer and host of the Drag Kids program, which had been on the schedule for Sunday, said the decision was extremely difficult to make, but security and safety are priorities.

Donald Williamson, executive director of Boise Pride Festival, told Boise State Public Radio in an interview that far-right Republican officials like Moon feel more emboldened after the last several years of pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation.

All performers in Drag Kids have the “enthusiastic” support of their parents, Williamson said, with one participant set to perform alongside their mother.

“The only perversion and sexualization of this performance are coming from extremists and people like Dorothy Moon, who is twisting it into something that it is not.”

Safety issues however, are of real concern after earlier this summer heavily armed Coeur d’Alene police officers and Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear arrested armed anti-LGBTQ+ protestors, and a few self-labeled ‘street preachers’ who were attempting to disrupt the “Pride in the Park” in Coeur d’Alene City Park.

Law enforcement arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near the LGBTQ Pride event. Lee White, the police chief of the Coeur d’Alene police department said those arrested were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Boise Police Department spokesperson Haley Williams said police met with Boise Pride event organizers after the Patriot Front arrests. “As with any special event, the Boise Police Department works with event organizers to evaluate the security needs,” Williams said in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “Based on that evaluation and other information, the department makes a plan to staff the event accordingly.”

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean issued a statement about the controversy on Thursday applauding Pride organizers for taking action “to protect everyone who will join in the celebration this weekend.” She also said that “the inflammatory rhetoric of the past few days has put a spotlight on the critical need for our community to have a conversation about standing together in times like these to encourage, embrace and support the diversity and dignity of all people.”

Boise Pride Festival commenced Friday evening at Cecil D. Andrus Park in downtown Boise and runs through Sunday afternoon.

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Idaho police receiving death threats over arrests of anti-LGBTQ extremists

“50 percent of calls, completely anonymous, who want nothing more than to scream and yell at us and offer death threats”

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Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

COEUR d’ ALENE, Id. – During a press conference on Monday, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said that his department has received death threats after arresting thirty-one members of the Patriot Front, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ+ white nationalist “hate” group.

White indicated that his department has fielded about 149 calls in the aftermath of the arrests. He said about 50 percent of the calls have been praise from the community, who offer their names and express pride in the department.

“And the other 50 percent — who are completely anonymous, who want nothing more than to scream and yell at us and use some really choice words — offer death threats against myself and other members of the police department merely for doing our jobs,” White said. “Those people obviously remain anonymous.”

Chief White told reporters that his officers and Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies arrested the Patriot Front members along with the group’s founder Dallas-based Thomas Ryan Rousseau in traveling in a U-Haul box truck wearing face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, carrying riot shields and had an “operations plan” to riot near at the LGBTQ “Pride in the Park” in Coeur d’Alene City Park Saturday afternoon.

Chief White said he observed documents in which the group allegedly planned to create a confrontation, including the use of smoke grenades, before retreating down Sherman Avenue.

“It didn’t delineate which group exactly, whether it was police officers or the Pride people, that they were planning to confront,” White said. “It was more vague than that.”

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office released the identities of all 31 who were arrested, all of them charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and bonded out of custody. It’s unclear if they have all retained attorneys.

Of the entire group, only two were listed as residents of Idaho in the sheriff’s booking report.

The rest of the group included seven individuals from Texas, six from Utah, five from Washington, three from Colorado, two from South Dakota, one from Alabama, one from Wyoming, one from Oregon, one from Illinois, one from Arkansas, and one from Missouri.

Booking photos via the Kootenai County, Idaho Sheriff’s Office

Patriot Front was once known as Vanguard America (VA), one of the main organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said.

“This one concerned citizen rather than pulling out their phone and recording this for their 15 minutes on YouTube — or Snapchatting it or something like that — took the time to call 911 to report some suspicious activity,” White said.

“And as a result, we likely stopped a riot from happening downtown.”

According to the Kootenai County, Idaho Sheriff’s Office, by Sunday afternoon all 31 men had bonded out of the Kootenai County Jail.  Their names are as follows: 

  • Jared Michael Boyce – 27 from Soringville, UT
  • Nathan David Brenner – 26 from Lewisville, CO
  • Colton Michael Brown – 23 from Rovendale, WA
  • Josiah Daniel Buster – 24 from Watauga, TX
  • Mishael Joshua Buster – 22 from Spokane, WA
  • Devin Wayne Center – 22 from FayetteVille, AR
  • Dylan Carter Corio – 21 from Cheyenne, WY
  • Winston North Durham – 21 from Genesse, ID
  • Joseph Garret Garland – 23 from Freeburg, IL
  • Branden Mitchel Haney – 35 from Kaysville, UT
  • Richard Jacob Jessop – 21 from Idaho Falls, ID
  • James Michael Johnson – 36 from Concrete, WA
  • James Julius Johnson – 40 from Sioux Falls, SD
  • Connor Patrick Moran – 23 from Watauga, TX
  • Kieran Padraig Morris – 27 from Haslet, TX
  • Lawrence Alexander Norman – 32 from Prospect, OR
  • Justin Michael Oleary – 27 from Des Moines, WA
  • Cameron Kathan Pruitt – 23 from Midway, UT
  • Forrest Clark Rankin – 28 from Wheat Ridge, CO
  • Thomas Ryan Rousseau – 23 from Grape Vine, TX
  • Conor James Ryan – 23 – from Thornton, CO
  • Spencer Thomas Simpson – 20 from Ellensburg, WA
  • Alexander Nicholai Sisenstein – 27 from Midvale, UT
  •  Derek Joseph Smith – 24 from Sioux Falls, SD
  • Dakota Ray Tabler – 29 from West Valley City, UT
  • Steven Derrick Tucker  – 30 from Haslet, TX
  • Wesley Evan Van Horn – 34 from Lexington, AL 
  • Mitchell Frederick Wagner – 24 from Florissant, MO
  • Nathaniel Taylor Whitfield – 24 from Elk Ridge, UT
  • Graham Jones Whitsom – 31 from Haslet, TX
  • Robert Benjamin Whitted – 22 from Conroe, TX

Idaho Police Receiving Death Threats Following Patriot Front Arrests Near Pride Event:

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Idaho Senate GOP kills bill criminalizing gender-affirming care

Major medical groups, like the American Medical Association, generally oppose legislation that bans or criminalizes gender-affirming care

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Idaho State Capitol building (Photo Credit: State of Idaho)

BOISE, Id. – Senate Republicans in Idaho Tuesday killed a bill that would have made gender-affirming care a felony, with those convicted having to serve up to a life sentence. 

In a statement, Idaho Senate Republicans said they “stongly” oppose “any and all gender reassignment and surgical manipulation of the natural sex” on minors. But they also wrote that the controversial legislation “undermines” a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their children.  

“We believe in parents’ rights and that the best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents, with the benefit of their physician’s advice and expertise,” the senators wrote. 

H.B. 675, which passed the Idaho House of Representatives by a nearly party-line vote of 55-13, would have made it a felony — punishable by up to life in prison — to provide minors with hormones, puberty blockers or gender-affirming surgery – though surgeries generally aren’t performed on Trans and nonbinary youth. It would build on an existing Idaho law, established in 2019, that banned “female genital mutilation,” targetting rituals in some faiths.

The legislation included some exceptions, including when a procedure is deemed “necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed.” There was also a carve-out for performing surgeries on intersex individuals, even as intersex people advocate to end such procedures on infants.

In their statement, the senators also said that the bill was “counterindicated” by the Idaho Medical Association (IMA), which confirmed that gender-affirming surgeries on youth do not occur in Idaho. Major medical groups, like the American Medical Association, generally oppose legislation that bans or criminalizes gender-affirming care. 

The statement also cited the measure’s vague language, saying that its current form “could be interpreted to extend into the realm of medically necessary care for kids that is in no way related to transgender therapy.” It added: “The bill worked to carve out this area of care, unfortunately it falls short by limiting it to verifiable genetic disorders.”

Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, who sponsored the legislation, did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.  

The bill was one of several efforts from GOP politicians to keep Trans and nonbinary youth from receiving gender-affirming care. 

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive that required the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate gender-affirming care as “child abuse,” while also mandating licensed professionals and general citizens report the procedures or face “criminal penalties.” A spokesperson for the Texas DFPS confirmed to CNN last week that the state has opened nine alleged “abuse” investigations of minors receiving gender-affirming care.

Meanwhile, Alabama lawmakers are considering a similar bill that would make it illegal to provide minors with gender-affirming puberty-blockers, hormones or surgeries. It cleared the Senate in a 24-6 vote and is set to be debated in the House this week.

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Idaho House passes bill criminalizing gender-affirming care

The Republican sponsored legislation would make it a felony to provide minors with hormones, puberty blockers or gender-affirming surgery

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Idaho state capitol building (Photo Credit: State of Idaho)

BOISE, Id. – The Idaho House of Representatives approved Tuesday a bill making gender-affirming care a felony, with those convicted having to serve up to a life sentence. 

H.B. 675 passed the lower chamber by a vote of 55-13, nearly on party lines. One Republican, Rep. Fred Wood – the House’s only physician – joined Democrats in voting against the bill. The measure now heads to the state’s Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

The Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug-sponsored legislation would make it a felony to provide minors with hormones, puberty blockers or gender-affirming surgery – though surgeries generally aren’t performed on Trans and nonbinary youth. It would build on an existing Idaho law, established in 2019, that banned “female genital mutilation,” targetting rituals in some faiths.

Anyone who provides gender-affirming care or surgery “for the purpose of attempting to change or affirm the child’s perception of the child’s sex if that perception is inconsistent with the child’s biological sex,” would be guilty of a felony, punishable by up to life in prison.

The legislation includes some exceptions, including when a procedure is deemed “necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed.” There is also a carve-out for performing surgeries on intersex individuals, even as intersex people advocate to end such procedures on infants.

Meanwhile, the lower chamber is also considering a bill allowing prosecutors to criminally charge librarians who allow minors to check out “sexually explicit” materials, which some warn could apply to LGBTQ-themed books. 

The gender-affirming care legislation passed as Texas agencies began to investigate gender-affirming surgery on minors as “child abuse” after an order from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and an official opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton. Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S., announced that it would no longer offer gender-affirming care last week due to the actions.

In addition, Alabama lawmakers are considering a similar piece of legislation that would make it illegal to provide minors with gender-affirming puberty-blockers, hormones or surgeries.

“We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children under the age of 18,” Skaug said on the floor, arguing his bill would protect “boys and girls who have their genitals mutilated by chemicals or surgery for purposes of changing their birth sex.”

But opponents of the legislation, including some who have Trans relatives or friends, pushed back against Skaug’s bill. 

“This is the heaviest imaginable hand of government overriding family decisions on the most critical and frankly in many cases life-threatening questions,” said Rep. Ilana Rubel (D), who has a teenage child who identifies as Trans, adding that “transition becomes much more difficult” after puberty. 

“This is obviously not a step that a family takes lightly. This is a step that comes after literally thousands of hours of agonizing,” she said.

Top nationwide LGBTQ+ groups also condemned the House’s passage of the measure, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ+ rights group in the country.

“Every kid in Idaho deserves the chance to grow up feeling safe and respected for who they are,” said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the HRC. “Denying someone medically-necessary health care simply because you don’t approve of who they are is textbook discrimination. Decisions about what kind of care is appropriate for young people should be left up to the young person and their parents, in consultation with health care professionals, not by politicians looking to score political points at the expense of the well-being of transgender youth.”
According to a recent study published in JAMA Network, gender-affirming care for Trans youth reduces moderate or severe depression by 60% and suicidality by 73%.

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