Idaho’s Delayed Pride Fest Celebration

Idaho’s Delayed Pride Fest Celebration



June was Pride Month. Boise has traditionally hosted Idaho’s biggest Pride event, PrideFest, every June with this year being its 32nd year running. The pandemic, however, forced organizers to push back the festivities a few months—to Sept. 10-12.  

Michael L. Dale, president/board of directors of the all-volunteer non-profit Boise Pride, which organizes the event, said a record turnout of 80,000 is expected at this year’s celebration. 

The three-day format features entertainment, food, and beer vendors, beginning Friday from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with fireworks planned for the first night. Exhibit spaces open up on Saturday, and the Pride parade is slated for Sunday 10 a.m. 

Jim Smith, 57, a professor of evolution and systematic botany at Boise State University, said the annual celebration is where he and his husband get to be a majority, for a day, in a park. 

“Suddenly, being LGBTQ+ is the norm for that day,” he said.

He added the event is no different than the Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in New York.

“There have been as many heterosexual parents pushing their strollers around as there are gay people and gay couples,” he said.

Jim and his husband, Steve Martin, 54, are coming up on 25 years living together this year. Steve is the regional philanthropy officer in Idaho at Pride Foundation. It is not connected to Boise Pride, which organizes the Pride celebration in the capitol city.

Steve remembered a time when hecklers lined up along the Pride parade route and at the Capitol building during the event. But that hasn’t happened in a long time.

“There are more people out there celebrating with us, and the [city of] Boise has become incredibly supportive of Boise Pride and the LGBTQ+ community in general,” Steve said. “It’s quite an evolution for the city over the past 30 years.”

The couple met in October 1996 at a happy hour with a men’s group at the Balcony Club in Boise.

“We went on our first date a week later,” Steve said. “It happened to be National Coming Out Day, and that actually is our wedding anniversary.”

From their first meeting, the relationship grew quickly. 

“We already had our careers, and we knew we were ready. I’d say we were both looking to be in a long-term relationship with another man,” he said.

But anniversaries didn’t come easily for LGBTQ+ couples prior to 2015. Due to varying laws from state to state, Jim and Steve had to marry three times.

“We had a commitment ceremony of our own in 1998,” Steve said, “long before you could be legally married. That’s what we still consider our wedding day.”

In 2001, the couple went to Vermont, with two other couples, to complete their nuptials. The Green Mountain State was the first in the union to recognize gay civil unions.

At the time, “it meant nothing outside Vermont,” according to Steve.

In 2013, the pair exchanged vows again, this time in Seattle. But their marriage still wasn’t recognized in Idaho.

Complexities continued, as the Idaho legislature had to decide in 2014 how Idaho’s 10 to 15 LGBTQ+ couples married elsewhere were going to file their state income taxes.

“We were filing ‘married-filing jointly,’” Jim said, “but Idaho wasn’t recognizing that marriage. They had to come up with a whole separate set of rules.”

Steve said they had to file their federal taxes together, but had to file separately in Idah©o that year, which was “annoyingly amusing.”

But the pair got a little “revenge” against the state’s apparent angst over gay marriage. Each of them owed a little in taxes to the state. “We each wrote a check to pay the other’s taxes and put in the memo line, ‘my husband’s taxes.’”

The checks were promptly cashed.

Finally, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, California, and Nevada in 2014, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans in 2015, making same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states.

Prior to gay marriage being recognized, gay couples had to consider their inheritances and how that whole process would happen.

“If one of us was seriously ill or died, the other person would have had absolutely no legal standing to inherit,” Jim said. “We had to have a will, a living will, power of attorney and durable power of attorney, and have a lawyer get all this stuff done.”

They couldn’t even visit if one was hospitalized.

“That’s something that kept me awake at night a lot,” Steve said. “I worried about that for many years.”

According to the couple, numerous misconceptions surround non-gay attitudes about the gay community, even from those who claim to accept and understand. Jim and Steve both stressed people should not assume the LGBTQ+ community is somehow living a different lifestyle.

“Lifestyle implies choice,” Jim said. “Being gay isn’t a lifestyle. That’s our sexual orientation. We can’t change it any more than anybody else can. It’s fixed.”

Steve said gender identity works the same way.

“Those are two things that you are…and you cannot change. They’re not a choice. My sexual orientation is not what I chose, but I chose to accept about who I am.”

They said another misconception is the gay community wants special considerations.

“There are no gay rights, no gay agenda,” Jim said. 

Steve agreed. “We want the same rights you have. That’s what equal rights are.” ISI

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