Sen. Michelle Stennett is a long-time supporter of outlawing housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by amending the Idaho Human Rights Act. There has been confusion over why she, and the Democratic caucus, were compelled to vote not to let a former senator protest on the Senate floor.
Here is Stennett’s statement:
“I firmly believe that everyone is welcome to the Capitol and Capitol mall properties to demonstrate, rally and promote their cause: Pro-Gun, Anti-abortion, Occupy Boise, pro-Human Rights …everyone equally. However, I am also oath-bound to abide by Senate rules prohibiting lobbying, campaigning or displays of slogans in our legislative chamber.*
All retired representatives and senators have the privilege to join us on the floor during business and the public can quietly look on from the Public Gallery as long as everyone abides by the rules.
As a former senator, Nicole LeFavour knows well the rules of our chamber. A flyer was distributed at the start of yesterday’s protest, which made it clear that the goal of the protesters was singular; arrest with the objective of raising awareness. Furthermore, it would be unwise to set a precedent that would allow any former lawmaker to appear in our chamber for the purpose of advancing any issue.
Democratic legislators have worked tirelessly for eight years to expand the Idaho Human Rights Act to include the words sexual orientation and human rights. I have co-sponsored Add the Words legislation every year I have served in the legislature and remain dedicated to my commitment to secure these most basic protections for all Idahoans.
Here is the statement I made on the floor Monday: “My caucus and I completely respect the public’s ability to speak to their issues and have a voice in this body, in this Statehouse – it is the people’s house. And because we honor that, we are in complete support any time anyone uses this Statehouse as a platform to make us understand what their issues are. On the other hand, we are here during the session and at this time…we are here doing the business of the people, and for that reason I have supported this motion.”
*Senate Rule 46(E) Lobbying Prohibited. — No person shall be permitted to lobby for or against any bill in the Chamber of the Senate while the Senate is in session, except when the Senator to whom he wishes to speak shall have authorized him to do so.
*Senate Rule 46(H) Control of Visitors to Senate Floor. — No person except those on official business of the Senate shall be allowed inside the Senate Chamber from thirty minutes prior to the convening of the Senate and until ten minutes after the Senate is adjourned. While the Senate is in session, and until ten minutes after the Senate is adjourned, no person except those on official business of the Senate or those identified in Rule 46(A) shall be allowed in the hallways surrounding the Senate Chamber. No person lobbying for or against any measure shall be permitted on the floor of the Senate except by invitation of a Senator.