(CN) — Pride Month has, for many people across many years, become a crucial time. Born from recognition for the Stonewall riots of the late 60s that transformed the fight for gay rights in the U.S., Pride Month has become an opportunity for millions to celebrate the dignity of their sexual and gender identities and affirm their stance that the LGBTQ community is worth standing for.
But during a time that was set aside for celebration, Idaho saw a Pride Month tinged with intolerance.
Over three dozen men linked to a white nationalist group — all of whom were dressed like a “little army” and armed with riot gear in the back of a U-Haul — were arrested in northern Idaho for planning a riot at a weekend Pride parade and dozens of Pride flags in Boise were stolen or damaged just a week after volunteers with the Boise Pride Festival put them up.
The rhetoric against the LGBTQ community leading up to Pride was just as troubling. A Boise pastor told his congregation “put all queers to death,” later said he wanted to bring back laws that made homosexuality punishable by death, and that if Jesus “was the king and our leaders reported directly to him, we would not have a Pride Month.”
Around the time of the pastor’s comments, a GOP lawmaker from northern Idaho also told an audience that drag queens and other LGBTQ supporters were waging “a war of perversion against our children."
With hateful comments and attempted violence swirling around the state at a time when Pride is at the cultural forefront, many of Idaho’s LGBTQ are left to ponder a chilling question: After years of purported progress, is the Gem State’s relationship with the LGBTQ community beginning to crumble?
Meda Thompson, realtor and owner of Boise Pride Homes and creator of Boise Pride Pages, a resource website that highlights Idaho businesses and organizations that are LGBTQ owned or supportive of the community, says you don’t have to look too deep before finding discrimination plaguing Idaho’s LGBTQ.
At an LGBTQ Alliance Fundraiser in June, Thompson recalls a woman who said she was having a difficult time accomplishing something as essential as getting a home simply because she was married to a woman.
“She and her wife had a hard time finding a home because they were gay,” Thompson said. “Everybody was like ‘Oh you’re getting a home with your sister’ and when they found out she was actually her wife, it was crickets. . . even though they had work, they had income, they had everything you need, they had a hard time finding a home just because they were a couple.”
While many would hope that an Idahoan’s ability to find a home is not linked to their sexual or gender identities, discrimination like this is still a harsh reality too many have to face — particularly if they belong to more than one minority group.
“I know from meeting with the Intermountain Fair Housing Council that the biggest discriminatory factor is when somebody fits into two or more minority factors,” Thompson said. “Like, somebody that is Black and gay, or somebody that is disabled and a lesbian.”
Of course, not unlike many corners of the country, Idaho’s history with discrimination against the LGBTQ is nothing new — though it does have a reputation for leading the charge.
In the mid-1950s, Boise become entrenched in city-wide “homosexuality scare,” a scandal that saw law enforcement conduct sweeping investigations and arrests into a supposed “homosexual underground” in Idaho’s largest city. At first masquerading as an investigation into rumors of child predators in the city, before long the investigation ballooned into a witch hunt against gay men having sexual relationships with other consenting adults.