Otter: Add the Words protesters may be hurting ‘their own cause’ (w/audio)

Reacting to Tuesday morning’s blockade of his office, Gov. Butch Otter says gay rights advocates may be compromising highway safety and costing taxpayers by delaying the Legislature’s targeted March 21 adjournment.

Otter said he understands the frustration of those who can’t get a hearing in the Legislature on a bill that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the civil rights protections in the Idaho Human Rights Act.

But Otter said the fourth spate of arrests by protesters at the Capitol raises questions that may erode public support.

“I always understand the frustration,” Otter replied Tuesday morning to a question from KIVI’s Mike Sharp. “But that’s not the question here now. The question here now is are they starting to hurt their own cause?

“Our costs of running this place (during the legislative session) is 30,000 bucks a day. When we had to bring folks (ISP troopers) in off of the highway — my report was that they had to bring in everybody off of Canyon County, everybody off of Ada County, some out of Gem County, maybe some out of Elmore County. How many troopers were not out there on the highway and what’s the cost of that?”

The first three protests that resulted in 122 arrests by Idaho State Police were in parts of the Capitol controlled by the Legislature, on the third floor that contains the House and Senate chambers and on the garden level where committees meet. Tuesday morning’s protest, which brought 23 arrests, blocked Otter and his staff from entering their offices on the second floor.

“My instructions would be they gotta go to the third floor,” Otter said. “I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything down here.”

Otter continued: “I’ve often wondered why they don’t create their own forum and then invite us to go to their forum? Because if there’s some legislators that don’t want to go to the forum, I can understand that, they’ve got a lot of other things trying to get out of here by the 21st of March.”

Otter said he has met with proponents, but said that he can’t act until the Legislature sends him a bill.

“I’m just stymied as to why (they blocked his offices). Are they going to go to the Supreme Court next? The Supreme Court can’t do anything about it, like I can’t do anything about it until we’ve got legislation.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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