No on 1 campaign
In 1994 a group of social conservatives formed a coalition called the Idaho Citizens Alliance with the goal of pushing through a proposition in the state of Idaho (proposition 1) that would: prohibit governments in Idaho (both state and local) from including gays and lesbians in anti-discrimination laws, require public libraries to restrict access to books on or about gays and lesbians to adults only, and would bar public schools from suggesting to their students that gay and lesbian people are normal or that their "lifestyles" are acceptable. Part of a larger movement, social conservatives were interested in getting ballot measures in ten state elections, but only succeeded in Idaho and Oregon. This, of course, was on the heals of Colorado's amendment 2 which had yet to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even though it was widely expected that any proposition that passed in Idaho would inevitably be argued in court and probably found unconstitutional, social conservatives went ahead with their plans anyway.
Leaders in the GLBT community who were opposed to proposition 1 commissioned research and focus groups to look into their prospects. John Hummel, a gay leader and spokesperson said, "[W]hen the results of our professional campaign opinion research and focus groups came back, [i]t showed that folks in Idaho would not respond positively to a campaign message that focused on how Prop. 1 was discriminatory and unfair to gay people. This was because, first, most Idahoans at that time had no awareness or any perception that they knew any LGBT people, and second, to the extent that they thought they knew LGBT folks, they actively despised them, so discrimination was ok. To make a long story short, we thought we were screwed."
Nicole LeFavour (who would go on to be elected as the first openly gay person to both the Idaho house of representatives and the Idaho senate) worked on the campaign. "We had to work first and foremost," she said in an interview, "over and over again, just to educate the media to write a story that didn't use the most negative anti-gay language possible. Typically, stories used right-wing message phrases like 'special rights,' and that made it hard for us to really educate people as to what we faced everyday in our communities, libraries and schools."
Another leader in the community, Brian Bergquist, was born in Iowa and moved to Idaho-even though he knew the climate wasn't the best-because he saw that in such a state as Idaho he could make a difference. In 1994 Mr. Bergquist agreed to be the spokesperson for the No On One campaign that sought to educate the community in Idaho about Proposition 1 and the potentially disastrous effects it could have. When candidates for the Idaho Falls Council declared their support for proposition 1, gay rights groups spearheaded by such organizations as No On One sent materials and wrote letters. After much education, the four candidates backed down from their position. When a survey asked the 105 members of Idaho's legislature which side they stood on the issue of Proposition 1, only 9 supported it.
Members of the Idaho legislature asked Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk for an opinion on the proposition. Mr. EchoHawk went through the proposition line by line and wrote a rebuttal based on his interpretation of both Idaho and U.S. constitutional law. By the time Idaho went to the polls nearly every single Idaho legislator regardless of party affiliation, the governor of the state of Idaho, and the Attorney General had come out against the proposition.
In the end Idaho's Proposition 1 lost by 3,098 votes out of 450,000 votes cast.
- Foster, David, Anti-gay rights measure on Idaho ballet fuels fire,The Daily Courier, October 23, 1994.
- Ronayne, Diane, "Heir America" Alternet.org. Pulled March 30, 2010.
- "Romer V. Evans" Wikipedia. Pulled March 30, 2010.
- "Nicole LeFavour" Wikipedia. Pulled March 30, 2010.
- "Attorney General Still Finds Initiative Unconstitutional", Diversity, December/ January, 1993/94.
- "Few Lawmakers Support Anti-Gay Initiative", Diversity, February 1994.