Idaho City Narrowly Upholds Gay Rights Law In Closely Watched Vote

May 21, 2014

An effort to overturn one Idaho city's gay rights ordinance appears to have failed by a slim margin. The anti-discrimination law in Pocatello was upheld Tuesday night by a projected margin of 90 votes.

City councils in seven Idaho cities have barred employers, landlords and most businesses from discriminating on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But Pocatello's ordinance was the first in the state to be put to a popular vote.

Ralph Lillig, who led the campaign against the law, says his side was far outspent by gay rights advocates who received money and manpower from national groups.

“I use the analogy of David and Goliath," Lillig said. "We were very much a David in this thing. So, am I disappointed? Yes, of course. I think the people gave themselves a bad deal by not voting it out.”

The campaign to uphold Pocatello's anti-discrimination ordinance raised more than $80,000. That included some large donations from the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. Gay rights advocates worried a defeat in Pocatello could lead to other efforts to topple the ordinances in other Idaho cities.

Opponents of Pocatello’s law raised about $10,000. Lillig says he was somewhat disappointed there wasn't more involvement in the campaign from the LDS Church, which holds major sway in southeast Idaho.

Meanwhile, across the state, the city council in Lewiston, Idaho, has formed a subcommittee to craft its own local anti-discrimination ordinance.

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