After targeted protests, GOP senators say home addresses should not be public
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s U.S. senators have proposed a bill they say would limit targeted protests at the homes of elected officials.
U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo joined nine other Republican senators in sponsoring a bill that would prohibit public disclosure of government employees’ home addresses.
The proposed legislation comes after U.S. Supreme Court justices faced protests at their homes this week. A leaked draft opinion showed the nation’s highest court might overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling that outlined people’s rights to an abortion.
“Intimidating Supreme Court justices is a federal crime, yet our justices are being terrorized in their own homes and they and their families subjected to threats of violence,” Risch said in the news release. “Permitting public servants to delist their home addresses from online websites in order to protect themselves and their families is common sense.”
In Idaho, protests haven’t just targeted the state’s highest officials — instead judges, police officers, prosecutors, doctors, lawmakers and health department officials have all been the subject of protests from right-wing or anti-government groups.
Spokespersons for Crapo and Risch told the Idaho Statesman they support the Public Servant Protection Act, in part because of the protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes. But they said there has also been a rising trend of protests at officials’ homes throughout the nation.
“Public servants and their families should not be subjected to protests or acts of violence at their private homes,” Crapo said in a news release. “The freedom of speech should not be used as a weapon to intimidate or threaten others, and public officials should have the right to remove their address from the public domain.”
Crapo’s spokesperson Melanie Lawhorn told the Statesman by email that the senator also pointed to protests outside prominent Democrats, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Teng Biao, a Chinese dissident and human rights activist.
“While the right to assemble and speak freely is essential to democracy, there are justifiable restraints on such,” Lawhorn said. “This disturbing trend of targeting private homes for protest should be stopped.”
According to the text of the bill, it would cover “any officer or employee of a state, a political subdivision of a state, or a tribal government.” Risch’s spokesperson Marty Cozza said the bill would extend to federal, state, tribal and local officials.
If passed, the act would give officials the authority to sue anyone who publicly disclosed their addresses for $1,000 or actual damages — whichever is greater.
Protests outside elected officials’ homes have received mixed feedback from congressional delegates.
Schumer told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday he has no problem with people protesting outside his home or the justices as long as they are peaceful.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called the police over the weekend when she found a chalk message outside her home to “please ... vote yes” on a bill that would have codified the right to an abortion, the Bangor Daily News reported. The bill failed on Wednesday, with Collins voting no.
In 2021, Rep. Chaney, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, sponsored a bill that would have prohibited picketing or demonstrating outside someone’s home. The bipartisan bill died in the House in a 38-31 vote.
Green — who is in support of the federal bill — told the Statesman by phone the pair hope to bring the bill back during next year’s legislative session. Both lawmakers are running for reelection this year.
The federal act would prohibit the disclosure of officials’ home addresses, but it doesn’t prohibit people from going to government officials’ homes. Green and Chaney’s bill would have made targeted picketing a misdemeanor.
“Their bill doesn’t — in my opinion — go far enough,” Green told the Statesman.
The legislation was in direct response to targeted protests that occurred in 2020 over COVID-19 public health orders. One protest prompted a Central District Health board member to abruptly leave a meeting to deal with an agitated mob outside her home, where only her 12-year-old son was at the time.
During the CDH protest, Crapo and Risch co-signed a statement with other GOP leaders “vehemently” condemning individuals who harassed or intimidated public officials.
Lawhorn this week told the Statesman that Crapo’s “condemnation of harassment and intimidation at the private residence of any public official stands.”
Protesters also showed up at Chaney’s home in February 2021 after the bill was introduced.
Chaney — who is in support of the federal bill — told the Statesman that picketing is a bipartisan issue, as Idaho has seen more protests from the extreme right, while the recent protests in Washington D.C. are from the left.
“It frankly is an attempt to undermine our institutions and our republic, in favor of mob mentality and mob rule — and I don’t care who’s doing it,” Chaney told the Statesman.
Chaney and Green said both bills are important, but the localized bill would focus on every citizen and not just government officials.
“We can’t have people in our community being attacked for doing their jobs at their home,” Green told the Statesman.