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Gay rights activists arrested in Idaho protest

Gay rights activists arrested after occupying Idaho Senate, demand LGBT protections

Gay rights activists arrested in Idaho protest

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Police arrested dozens of gay rights activists Monday after a protest that blocked entrances to the Idaho Senate chambers for more than two hours.

Former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, the Idaho Legislature's first openly gay lawmaker and an organizer of the protest, was among the 43 people that police said they arrested. She had said the group would block the entrances until lawmakers agreed to take up a bill adding anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people or until protesters were removed by authorities.

The issue of gay rights has become prominent in the western state. In a pending federal case, four couples have sued to overturn Idaho's 8-year-old ban on gay marriage.

The demonstrators intended to call attention to a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a state law banning discrimination in employment, housing and business services.

Republicans have blocked passage of such a proposal for eight years, and they have declined to give a hearing to such a plan this year.

The protesters now face misdemeanor trespassing charges, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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AP reporter Katie Terhune contributed from Boise.