Seven cities in Idaho protect LGBT individuals from discrimination. But that number almost dropped to six — until advocates ran a robust campaign to keep the challenged law in place.

In 2013, Pocatello, Idaho adopted a local nondiscrimination ordinance barring employers, landlords and most businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But this year-old ordinance soon became the first in the state to be challenged with a ballot referendum.

On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, voters took to the ballot to vote on Proposition 1. A “yes” vote would repeal the ordinance, while a “no” vote would keep the protections in place. By an incredible margin of 147 votes, Pocatello residents voted to keep the ordinance protecting LGBT community members.

This win would not have been possible without the efforts of Fair Pocatello, the coalition created in order to garner support and votes to keep the nondiscrimination ordinance in place. This group worked tirelessly — talking to voters, recruiting volunteers, creating TV ads and mailers, and more — all in order to make sure LGBT residents remained protected in the city.

But no campaign, no matter how successful, is free from opposition.

In Pocatello, the opposition used scare tactics to erode support for the ordinance. They claimed the law hurt small businesses, but countless business owners were firmly in support. They said the law was an attack on religion, but people of faith across the city were proudly in favor. They attacked transgender people in an attempt to vilify them, but courageous transgender people in Pocatello stood up to dispel their lies and myths.

Even in the face of aggressive opposition, the team at Fair Pocatello won the campaign and protected the pro-LGBT law.

Jonathan Carkin, Fair Pocatello campaign manager, knows how important this vote was for the LGBT movement across the state and beyond:

“In Idaho, it is still legal in most places to fire someone from their job, evict them from their home, or deny them access to public accommodations for being gay or transgender.  A number of cities across the state have taken it upon themselves to provide protections against discrimination since Idaho’s legislature has refused to do so — even after nearly a decade of advocacy. To date, eight cities in Idaho have passed nondiscrimination ordinances, and our success in defending Pocatello’s ordinance supports the efforts of those cities and those who are currently considering their own ordinances.

The results of the Pocatello election also had implications beyond Idaho.  If our opposition had succeeded, it would have sent a message to other groups opposed to these laws that the referendum process would be a viable tactic to repeal similar laws in other places."

At the Equality Federation, we’re proud to have supported work to keep this nondiscrimination ordinance in place. We’re celebrating this victory, alongside the team at Fair Pocatello and all the coalition partners who made it possible.

Although we celebrate the win in Pocatello, we realize how close this city came to being the first in Idaho to repeal a local nondiscrimination law. It is important that our movement continues to work together to ensure local and state-based wins for our LGBT community. No one should fear losing their job or being denied housing simply for being who they are. We must ensure protections against discrimination are enacted, and remain in place, in the communities we call home.

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Jace Woodrum

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