The Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has sent an open letter to Representative John A. "Bert" Stevenson (R-Rupert) for comments made February 25 on "Zeb at the Ranch" with host Zeb Bell.
You owe Idahoans an apology.
Your recent comments on public radio regarding gay and lesbian people are not appropriate for a state legislator. The radio host was engaging in hate speech and you not only did not challenge any of his bigoted comments but participated in spreading false and dangerous statements regarding millions of Americans. As a member of a group of people (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who were once heavily discriminated against in the State of Idaho (including within the state constitution) we would hope that you would be an advocate for any legislation that is trying to protect Idahoans from discrimination. Senators Coiner's and LeFavour's bill would have helped move Idaho in a direction of equality for all citizens.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons continue to suffer from social stigma, harassment, hate-crimes, and discrimination. The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S.Ct. 2472 (2003), that clarified the right of adults to engage in private, consensual sexual activities regardless of sexual orientation and removed the cloud of possible criminal prosecution for such acts. In spite of that ruling, same sex couples in committed relationships, are not afforded basic benefits, rights and protections granted heterosexual couples under state and federal laws.
Your statement as an elected leader, "If those people want that kind of lifestyle we will do away with the human race," is completely irresponsible and misleading. You have much to learn about sexual orientation, sexuality, and the importance of civil rights in a democratic republic. Our state is not a theocracy and your role as a legislator is not to impose your church's doctrine on your fellow citizens but to assist in expanding civil rights for all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
We hope that you will gain education to eliminate your heterosexism and homophobia. We hope that one day you will join with us and the President of the United States in saying, "While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect." (Barack Obama, June 1, 2007, www.whitehouse.gov)
Delmar Stone, LMSW
National Association of Social Workers