Sanders praised for LGBT rights stance at Idaho rally

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted thousands of supporters in Idaho, praised for commitment to LGBT equality. Photo by Photo Otto Kitsinger, AP.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted thousands of supporters during his second campaign stop in Idaho.

Sanders stopped to rally voters at the Taco Bell Arena on Boise State University's campus on Monday — a day before the Idaho Democratic caucus. It's the same location President Barack Obama stopped to campaign eight years ago during his successful Democratic presidential bid.

"I think it would be extraordinary in what is perceived to be a conservative state, stood up and said 'We are part of the political revolution,'" Sanders said to rowdy cheers. "Let's have a record-breaking night in Idaho."

Echoing many of the same themes he spoke about in Idaho Falls just days earlier, Sanders championed the need for free college tuition, addressing student loan debt and reforming the economy.

Sanders also criticized Republican Party officials for making it harder to participate in elections.

"It stuns me we have Republican governors working overtime to suppress the votes," he said.

In Idaho, the Democratic caucus is open to everyone, but the GOP primary is only open to registered Republican voters.

The Democratic candidate is trying to catch front runner Hillary Clinton, who has a strong lead in pledged delegates. She needs about 770 more delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton has not made a public campaign appearance in Idaho, but did send Olympic winner Michelle Kwan to speak last week on her behalf.

However, neither Sanders nor the crowd seemed deterred by the candidate's uphill challenge to become the party's nominee for the November general election.

Supporters, mostly college-aged young people, stood in lines for hours to hear Sanders speak. Many held homemade signs that read "Bern Baby Bern," while others wore t-shirts with the popular campaign slogan "Feel the Bern."

Actress Susan Sarandon introduced Sanders after spending the day before campaigning for him in the Gem State.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, a grassroots activist and vice chair for the LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Idaho, praised Sanders' commitment to equality. The state's Republican leadership doesn't go far enough, she said.

For example, Idaho's Human Rights Act does not offer sexual orientation and gender identity protections. This means lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not protected from employment and housing discrimination.

"Bernie rings through loud and clear," Gaona Lincoln said. "He is fighting for the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered people."


By Kimberlee Kruesi. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

The Gayly-3/21/2016 @ 5:14 PM CST