Idaho cities hold vigils, beef up security for pride events

Around the nation, security is stepped up at Pride events. File photo.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — LGBT-rights activists say they are beefing up security measures during this weekend's Boise Pridefest, which is the largest in Idaho.

Extra officers will be assigned to the event's rally and parade, Boise Pridefest director Rodney Busbee said.

The efforts are a response to a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Authorities say the shooting early Sunday left 50 people dead — including the gunman — and injured more than 50 others.

Boise's pride festival has attracted intimidating comments in prior years, but organizers rarely felt the need to report them to law enforcement because they were used to them, Busbee said. On Sunday, just hours after learning of the Florida shooting, organizers immediately reported an intimidating comment on the event's Facebook page.

"In the past, I've had people text me or post that that they were going to kill me," Busbee said. "But that became a reality over the weekend."

The annual Boise Pridefest parade's route has also been altered for safety. Organizers met with Boise police officers on Monday to talk security details and finalize a route away from the heart of downtown. They have opted for a course with not as much traffic.

Boise police and city officials have offered overwhelming support, Busbee said. In deeply conservative Idaho, the state's largest city is a rare oasis for LGBT-advocates looking for housing and employment protections not guaranteed by the state.

Boise is just one of 12 cities to approve ordinances banning housing and employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Advocates have unsuccessfully lobbied for state lawmakers to expand the Idaho Human Rights Act for nearly a decade.

Furthermore, despite requests, capitol officials have denied allowing organizers to illuminate the Capitol in gay pride colors during the week of the festival. This year's pride theme is "Color the Capitol."

"Lighting the Capitol is not a political matter. It's saying no matter who you are we support you," Busbee said, adding that he's hoping capitol officials will change their minds before the end of the week.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Idahoans have attended vigils across the state to honor the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. More than 200 people attended Sunday's vigil in Boise, while large crowds were also reported in Twin Falls and Moscow. A vigil in Sandpoint will take place Monday evening, while another vigil will be held in Pocatello on Thursday.

Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, an LGBT-rights activist who helped organize the vigils, urged the public to help protect the rights of Idaho's gay community.

"We are at the point of demanding the same protections for everyone," she said. "Something has to change."

KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
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The Gayly - 6/13/2016 @ 4:51 p.m. CDT