Nicole LeFavour has raised an interesting question. LeFavour, a former member of both houses of Idaho’s state legislature, was sentenced on June 16 for trespassing in the same State Senate chambers where she once was a member in good standing.
This begs the question: just whose property was she trespassing on? Whose House is it?
LeFavour was not someone you would have expected to see serving in Idaho’s Statehouse as an elected representative. An openly gay Democrat in the third reddest state in the Union, she nevertheless spent four years in the House and four in the Senate, winning three elections in Idaho’s 19th legislative district. She left her senate seat in 2012 to run for Congress. Though she lost, she pulled in over 1/3rd of the vote, a far larger number of votes than any opponent incumbent Mike Simpson faced had received in the six elections previous to her.
After her loss, LeFavour remained active in Idaho’s politics. Working with Idaho’s “Add The Words” Political Action Committee, she has been advocating for the addition of legal protection for LGBT individuals to Idaho’s human rights act. It was in this capacity that this former legislator was arrested for the first of seven times on February 3, 2014. At one point, she was arrested after hiding in a Senate closet for five hours, a symbolic act representing those she feels must remain “closeted” to protect their jobs in Idaho. On June 16 of this year, she was sentenced to 75 hours of community service and fined $100, plus court costs.
Why was she charged with trespassing? Advocates in favor of adding these protections had been attempting to get their legislation added to the legislative docket for eight years without it ever even reaching a committee hearing in the staunchly Republican state. During her tenure in the Idaho legislature, LeFavour had attempted to move the legislation forward in committee. Now on the outside, she had decided to force action.
On the date of her first arrest, she led a large number people into a silent demonstration. These 44 people peacefully entered the statehouse and stood against the walls, holding their hands over their mouths as a protest against being their perception that their voices were being gagged in Idaho’s halls of power. Those 44 would be arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing, including LeFavour. In order for her arrest to take place, the Senate had to hold a special vote to revoke a rule allowing former state Senators unlimited access to the Senate floor.
Regardless of your thoughts on whether or not LGBT individuals need protections usually accorded to racial and religious minorities, her arrests and sentencing raises a serious question. If a former member of the legislature can be arrested for exercising free speech in the legislative hub of Idaho, what chance do the rest of us stand? Just who was she trespassing against?
Trespassing is defined as “a wrongful entry upon the lands of another.” For her to have been engaged in an act of trespassing, therefore, there would have to have been some sort of permission she failed to obtain, and an owner she failed to obtain it from. Who, then, is this owner, and what permission can they deny?
The simple fact is this: the Idaho Statehouse is owned by We the People. The citizens of Idaho, including LeFavour, own that House (and that Senate). LeFavour was arrested, charged, and sentenced for trespassing on property that essentially belonged to her, along with every other Idahoan. She was arrested because she was daring to exercise her rights to free speech and assembly, on her property, on an issue that was not publicly popular.
So why should a conservative website’s readers care about a liberal getting a comeuppance for disrupting a conservative legislature with her insistence on pushing forward a liberal agenda? Because, if a former legislator can be arrested for trespassing in the legislature while exercising her freedom of speech and freedom to assemble, what chance does the everyday conservative have if the roles are reversed? When a judge orders the Ten Commandments be removed from a city hall in New Mexico, for example, we shouldn’t show up on We the People’s property to express support of the Ten Commandments. Apparently, We the People don’t want to grant you your right to assemble or to engage in free speech on what is basically your own property. Don’t like Common Core? Keep it to yourself, and out of your statehouse. Do you believe in your Second Amendment right to bear arms? Forget it. We won’t allow your First Amendment rights near your legislature, so why do you think your Second Amendment rights will be given any more respect?
Whose House (and Senate) did LeFavour trespass in? Well, I don’t know any more. Given what happened to LeFavour, the only thing I can say for certain is that it apparently isn’t ours. Not anymore, anyway.