One of the criticisms I’ve heard about the Add the Words protests boils down to alienation of lawmakers. Why protest when they know they’re not going to get a hearing this year? Aren’t they just making people mad?
As an observer, I wondered the same thing. But after watching the demonstrations and talking to the people who show up every day to protest, the message is clear: It’s no longer just about the Legislature. It’s about public opinion.
And that public opinion on LGBT issues has shifted in recent years, even among conservatives. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this month, a record 59 percent of people nationwide support gay marriage, and a Pew poll released today says 61 percent of Republicans ages 18 to 21 support same sex marriage.
Add the Words isn’t about marriage, but these polls show attitudes are changing.
Republican leadership said early on that Add the Words wouldn’t happen this session. And though the first wave of protests was aimed at lawmakers, with demonstrators blocking doors to the Senate chambers, there has been a noticeable shift in strategy. Now there are vigils and demonstrations with people sharing painful, personal stories of discrimination.
With that media attention comes more public support. If you haven’t already, check out the Facebook page STAND UP WITH A SELFIE. You’ll see more than a thousand photos with the telltale hand-over-mouth silent protest. Many are from Idaho, but others have posted in solidarity from France, the Netherlands and other countries. On Monday, some of those photos were printed out and strung around the statehouse.
So the question remains — Will that support carry through for next year? And what will lawmakers do?