State senators have passed a symbolic measure highlighting Idaho’s commitment to human rights, just days after an Islamic mosque in Boise was targeted by swastika stickers.

The chamber approved the measure by voice vote, after the House cleared it 59-9. It reaffirms the state’s commitment to “freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin or disability.”

Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello and sponsor, argued that passing the measure would send a message to racist or bigoted groups that Idaho doesn’t tolerate hateful acts.

In the 1980s and ’90s, meetings of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake in northern Idaho earned the state a reputation as a haven for racist groups. Now, police in Idaho’s capital city are investigating the swastikas left last week on the Islamic Center of Boise, and Malepeai said he was concerned the incident could be a harbinger of renewed neo-Nazi activity.

“Idaho is beginning to feel that resurgence,” Malepeai said. “We need to respond to this resurgence of hate, and a resolution is a necessary step.”

Some House members had opposed the measure last month, arguing it was unnecessary and only brought back bad memories of the Aryan Nations that otherwise would disappear if people didn’t always bring them up again. There was no similar debate in the Senate.


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