I am still awaiting word from the experts, but it appears that today’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage won’t change anything in Idaho. That’s because the decisions defer to states to regulate marriage, even while striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The result is that couples legally married in the 12 states where same-sex marriage is permitted are eligible for federal benefits; a second decision declined to take up an appeal of a California appellate court ruling over that state’s Proposition 8. But Idaho has a sweeping constitutional provision banning not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.
In 2006, Idaho voters approved HJR 2, an amendment to the state Constitution, with 63.35 percent of voters in favor and 36.65 percent against. The ballot measure asked, “Shall Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 28, to provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state?” Once it passed, this section was added to Idaho’s Constitution:
“Section 28. Marriage. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
The official statement of effect of adoption of the ballot measure said this: “If adopted, the proposed amendment would add language to the Constitution of the State of Idaho to provide that a marriage is only between a man and a woman. The language prohibits recognition by the state of Idaho and its political subdivisions of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage. The language further prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from granting any or all of the legal benefits of marriage to civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage.”