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Idaho attorneys raise concerns about HJR 2

Forty-one attorneys from throughout the state have signed a statement opposing HJR 2, the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships in Idaho. Among the concerns cited are that the measure, as written, could hamper legal protections for some battered women and affect court proceedings over private companies’ employee benefits. Here’s the statement:

“We, the undersigned members of the Idaho legal community, hereby declare our opposition to HJR2, the proposed amendment on the November ballot that would ban civil unions, marriage and any other relationship recognition for same-sex couples in Idaho. After thoughtful consideration of how passage of the measure could impact current and future Idaho generations, we oppose this amendment and urge our colleagues and fellow Idahoans to do so as well.

First, it is clear that our Idaho Constitution has always existed to secure rights, not to deny them. The Idaho Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, identifies and protects rights and freedoms – for the purpose of insuring those rights for all Idahoans. Our Constitution should not be used as a political means to restrict the rights of any citizens.

Second, amending the Idaho Constitution is unnecessary to achieve the end of prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Throughout our history, the civil parameters placed upon marriage have always been determined through statute, not through constitutional means. Idaho law already restricts marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman (Idaho Code Section 32-202), a statute that has never been challenged. .

Moreover, the broad scope of HJR2 is not limited to same-sex couples. Since it would prohibit all “domestic legal unions” other than a marriage between a man and a woman, the proposed amendment would also deny basic relationship protection to all unmarried male/female couples. Indeed, similar bans in other states apparently have been used to deny legal protections to battered women who live with, but are not married to, their abusers.

Third, we are seriously concerned about the potential unintended adverse consequences to Idahoans and their families should HJR2 pass. The broad language of the proposed amendment declares that “a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” Therefore, HJR2, if passed, could possibly be construed to deny employees of private employers currently extending health and other benefits to same gender or other unmarried domestic partners access to Idaho courts to enforce such private-sector benefits, potentially putting at risk the health and welfare of Idaho children and families.

Finally, we are concerned that the vague language of the amendment will likely leave the State mired in litigation for years to come, draining limited state resources needed for more pressing and important matters. Therefore, as concerned members of Idaho’s legal community, we urge Idaho citizens to reject HJR2 by voting NO on November 7.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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