LGBT: Acceptance in Idaho

by Judy Ferro

 

Judge Candy Dale’s decision in favor of LGBT marriage in Idaho brought a sadness that I hadn’t anticipated.

I remembered how naïve I was about gays in high school—and the three closeted friends that were among the first to die from Aids. They had teased me about being a Mormon who just didn’t know it, shared jokes when I felt down, and shared dreams of becoming missionaries in South America.

I had known about gays—Caldwell’s debate coach was arrested while we were at state tournament in Pocatello—but I hadn’t known much.

Now I remember families I’ve seen torn apart by failure to accept a gay member. One friend’s parents were supportive only until he found a partner; they had assumed he had chosen abstinance. A friend in Nampa has been with her partner for 22 years and yet her siblings are still angry.

I don’t understand the depth of hate involved. At home I was raised to respect people’s differences and at church I learned of a loving God who directed that we love our neighbors and restrain from judging others.

I mourn the wasted energy as people try to help our country by doing and saying hateful things about gays and lesbians –as though democracy can survive only with people who think exactly as they do. If we all thought alike, any government would be fine—it’s our differences that make democracy the blessing that it is.

Fortunately, some memories make me feel good.

Down-to-earth Idaho families simply ignored a former student and her girlfriend holding hands across a table in the Sunday morning crush at Say You, Say Me restaurant. No one seemed to see their happiness as a threat.

And a devout Christian, who had warned me that he was anti-gay when I recruited him as a candidate in 2008, has since become a supporter of gay marriage. Working on projects with couples who’ve been together 20 and 30 years has that affect on people.

Back in the 1970s, Carol and Ron Blakley, upon learning their son was gay, worked to start a LGBT-friendly congregation in Boise.   It was hard enough, Carol told me, to accept their son being gay. If he’d rejected their religious beliefs, it would have hurt much too much.

And I smile remembering when my good friend Lane Thomas came out as gay. Lane had been the children’s teacher for Snake Basin Drama and taught our girls to juggle so young that managing one ball was a struggle.   Soon my husband Bill was helping SBD with lights and sound—and even acting. We met several of Lane’s girlfriends and, occasionally, double-dated.

Later, Lane started a graphic design business in Caldwell that was quite successful.   My husband Bill was at Lane’s office in 1996 or so when a Press-Tribune photographer came to his picture.

The Idaho legislature had been debating a bill that would forbid schools and libraries from purchasing any materials that encouraged acceptance of the gay lifestyle. In a letter-to-the-editor in opposition, Lane had revealed he was gay. The paper wanted an interview.

When Lane’s picture ran across the front page the next day, Bill and I were worried for his personal safety as well as for his business.

Soon, Newsweek contacted Lane hoping to do a story on what he’d gone through. Lane mentioned that friends had sent balloons and candy, but, no, he hadn’t gotten hate mail or phone calls.   The magazine ended up doing a story about a lesbian couple in the South instead.

It didn’t even mention Lane’s acceptance in Idaho.

I was so proud of my state then. I still am.

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