North Idaho Embraces LGBTQ Equalityon May 8th, 2012 at 12:29 pm
In my year and a half as a Pride Foundation staff member in the great state of Idaho, I am reminded and inspired on a daily basis about the generosity and dedication of the people who live here when it comes to the work of creating LGBTQ Equality.
That inspiration is most apparent than when I am traveling across the state to meet donors and volunteers, as well as participate in events dedicated to promoting tolerance and acceptance, eliminating ignorance, and embracing and celebrating diversity. A week-long trip to north Idaho in April reminded and encouraged me about how far we’ve come in all of those areas, and the welcome, growing support from those communities. A visual slideshow of my adventures can be found here on Pride Foundation’s Facebook page. Altogether, I traveled more than 400 miles and visited Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, and Bonners Ferry.
Trip highlights were many, but first and foremost was a visit to the University of Idaho in Moscow, where I was the keynote speaker for Lavender Graduation, a ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of the school’s LGBTQ students; there were 13 this year. More than 65 people attended, including Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney and University of Idaho President Duane Nellis, who also spoke at the ceremony.
Pride Foundation grantees located in northern Idaho in 2011 include Inland Oasis, North Idaho AIDS Coalition and University of Idaho’s Human Rights Access & Inclusion Office later participated in an informative roundtable discussion at U of I about LGBTQ-related issues in Idaho, an event also attended by area donors and volunteers.
In Coeur d’Alene, I met up with Pride Foundation Idaho Leadership Action Team member Jon Downing, a chemistry professor at North Idaho College (NIC) and faculty advisor for NIC’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) . I had the opportunity to attend an NIC GSA meeting, and later met with Jon and the GSA’s student president Danni Bain to brainstorm potential ways Pride Foundation could help the GSA’s work through future grants and/or sponsorships.
After a donor visit trip to Bonners Ferry, very near the Canadian border, I finally landed in Sandpoint, which in January became the first city in Idaho to pass a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ citizens. Among the many progressive and supportive folks I was fortunate to network with in this beautiful community this visit, a special mention goes out to resident Laura Bry, a straight ally who works with both the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and Bonner County Democrats.
In addition to helping organize a successful Pride Foundation fundraiser in Sandpoint last September at the home of her brother Thomas Bry and his partner Joey Palisano, Laura participated for the first time on a Pride Foundation Idaho Scholarship Interview Committee this spring, and volunteered to step up and join the state’s Leadership Action Team, helping represent north Idaho.
People like Laura, Jon, and Danni as well as grantees like Inland Oasis, NIAC and University of Idaho are links in the growing chain of change in Idaho on the road to LGBTQ Equality, a theme that was central to my Lavender Graduation speech. And how gratifying and rewarding it has continued to be for me to represent Pride Foundation in the Gem State along this journey.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.