Bill exempting public works contractors from gender considerations on job sites advances

North Idaho contractor says federal contract language violated his religious beliefs

By: - February 1, 2023 5:36 pm
rotunda at the Idaho Capitol

The rotunda at the Idaho Capitol on Jan. 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Senate State Affairs Committee advanced a bill to exempt state public works contractors from requirements about gendered multi-use restroom or locker facilities on job sites after a short hearing Wednesday morning.

The seven Republican members of the committee voted to send the bill to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass, while the two Democratic senators voted against it. It will likely receive a vote in the Senate in the coming days of the session.

Senate Bill 1003 is sponsored by Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, who said the request for the legislation came from a constituent named Luis Munilla, the owner of CoyotePak Construction in Sandpoint.

Sen. Scott Herndon
Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle(Courtesy of the Idaho Legislature)

Herndon said former President Barack Obama amended an executive order in 2014 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as factors that could not be discriminated against or granted preferential treatment in federal contracting, along with race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Because the Idaho Legislature can’t change federal law, Herndon’s bill would allow projects that only use state and local funding to disregard that provision of contracting and not provide access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, shower facilities or changing rooms for workers on any basis other than biological sex. The bill defines biological sex as the physical condition of being male or female as stated on a birth certificate.

Munilla spoke to the committee remotely from Sandpoint and said he was asked to sign a contract that would have required he did not segregate bathrooms or housing facilities on his job sites.

“I’m a religious person, and I believe that biological gender is given by God,” Munilla said, and added that he would not bid on projects with those requirements. “I think it’s discrimination toward people that have religious beliefs to require that to happen.”

Munilla said the requirement is “forcing gender ideology in our world.”

‘The principle is what matters to me,’ says North Idaho contractor

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, asked Munilla how often he has multi-use restrooms on a public works site, since most of the ones she sees have portable bathrooms or other individual bathrooms.

Munilla said he has not had to provide a multi-use bathroom on one of his contracts, but Idaho is growing.

“The principle is what matters to me,” he said.

Sen. Treg Bernt, R-Meridian, asked Munilla if the contract was for a state or federal project, to which he said it was a Bonner County solid waste facilities improvement project that was partially funded by federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Munilla said he thinks that’s why the segregated facilities language was included.

Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, asked if there were other examples of projects with county or state funding only where the contract language had come up. Herndon said he did not have any other examples to provide, but said he worked with the Idaho Association of General Contractors on the bill, and they agreed there was a possibility the requirement would be placed in contracts moving forward.

“We want to close off that possibility and require a distinction between these contracts,” Herndon said.


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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.