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Our View: Idaho’s HJR 2 is unneeded and mean spirited

Idaho law is clear: Marriage is between a man and a woman.

Many may wish for a more open-minded public policy, but the state’s elected legislators have spoken. The law is the law.

All of which just puts Idaho – and Washington, which has a comparable statute – in the mainstream among American states. Even though public attitudes around sexual orientation have grown increasingly accepting in recent years, they don’t go that far. In state after state where voters have been offered a chance to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, the answer has been no.

What’s puzzling in Idaho, with an important election less than a month away, is why the firmly resolved question about same-sex marriage needs more attention.

Specifically, why is House Joint Resolution 2 on the ballot?

If Idaho voters approve the measure on Nov. 7, they will add this deceptively simple sentence to the state Constitution : “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

Read those 23 words again. Pay attention to the broad implications.

They don’t merely echo what the law now says. They say that no other arrangement formalizing a relationship between two men or two women who want to share a life – a “domestic legal union,” if you will – is allowed.

No civil unions. No domestic partnerships. None of the accommodations that some other states have made to same-gender couples in lieu of marriage. Nothing.

A woman is rushed to the hospital with a serious injury or illness. If she has a husband, he can go straight to her side once he’s notified. But if she’s a lesbian, her anxious partner probably can’t do the same – and under HJR 2 it will become even less likely. If there are end-of-life decisions to be made about feeding tubes and life-support systems, the personal helplessness of watching a loved one suffer only deepens.

So it goes with a host of shared concerns involving property, estates, benefits …

That’s inconsistent with Idahoans’ attitudes about individualism and live-and-let-live fair play.

Advocates of the measure insist it is needed to guard against renegade judges trampling on existing law and forcing same-sex marriage on a state that doesn’t want it.

Time out for a reality check. Washington and Idaho are neighboring states but few people would fail to recognize the fundamental ideological gulf between them. If either state’s courts are going to push a progressive social agenda as bold as permitting same-sex marriage, it’s blue-state Washington, not red-state Idaho. And Washington’s Supreme Court this year rejected a challenge to the state’s version of the Defense of Marriage Act. If the law is going to be changed, they ruled, it’s up to elected lawmakers, not the courts, to do it.

In Idaho, the exclusiveness of traditional marriage is secure as long as the people want it. HJR 2 is overkill, and if passed it will make Idahoans look mean-spirited and discriminatory. They should turn it down.


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