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Capitol Could Go Dark for Boise Pride Festival

The Boise Pride Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. (Kenneth Freeman/Flickr)
The Boise Pride Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. (Kenneth Freeman/Flickr)
May 20, 2019

BOISE, Idaho – Boise is set to host one of its biggest pride festivals ever, but the Idaho State Capitol might not be part of the festivities.

After three years of lighting the building with rainbow lights to support the LGBTQ community, Idaho officials say the Capitol building is no longer taking lighting requests for the Boise Pride Festival or any other occasion.

Boise Pride Fest is set to take place June 14 and 15.

Michael Dale, board president of the festival, calls the decision disappointing. He says being part of the LGBTQ community in Idaho is challenging and a darkened Capitol is an unfortunate metaphor.

"When we can't do it, I think it's more significant because our voices go dark,” he states. “So, it kind of makes us feel like we're not being recognized and we can't celebrate who we all are."

Boise Pride has a petition on change.org that reached 10,000 signatures last week calling on Capitol officials to reverse their decision.

The Department of Administration points to a message former agency director Robert Geddes sent to festival organizers last year, saying the agency was receiving a high volume of applications and could no longer accept requests.

According to the Idaho Statesman, the agency receives about 10 to 12 requests a year.

Dale says it's going to be a big year for Boise Pride, with organizers expecting 70,000 attendees from across the West.

Last year's event drew 50,000 people.

It's the 30th anniversary in Boise and also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which are often recognized as the beginning of the LGBTQ movement.

Along with saying there is a high volume of requests, the Department of Administration also says if one application for Capitol lighting were approved, the agency would have to approve them all.

Dale takes exception to this, saying it's the agency’s job to make decisions like this.

"We think, as elected officials and as the state, they need to make a determination who should do it and who can't do it,” he stresses. “You know, that's why we trust them to make those decisions. It hasn't been an issue for areas across the country. For some reason, it's an issue here in Idaho."

Dale says this year also is important because the community continues to advocate for adding the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act, which would provide housing and employment protections.

Organizers might do a lighting across the street from the Capitol, but Dale says it will cost an additional $5,000 to do this, on top of they would have spent to light the Capitol.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID