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Eye On Boise

Otter defends same-sex marriage ban, Balukoff calls for adding the words…

Same-sex marriage and the “Add the Words” movement prompted sharp disagreements between GOP Gov. Butch Otter and Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff today.

Otter defended his continuing push to defend Idaho’s overturned ban on same-sex marriage in court, saying he’s upholding his oath to defend the state’s Constitution. “Idaho is pro-traditional marriage, and I’m not going to do anything to put that in danger,” he declared. One person in the Idaho Falls audience applauded, and Otter joked, “Thank you, Mom.”

Balukoff said, “Discrimination is discrimination and it’s always wrong. When we take that oath of offce to uphold the Constitution, that is not only the Idaho Constitution but the U.S. Constitution also. … No matter how many of our citizens vote to pass the law, we cannot pass a law that violates the United States Constitution. This is about discrimination, treating all people with fairness and respect. Regardless of what our beliefs may be, we still need to treat them equally.”

Otter responded, “The Supreme Court has not settled the question on this yet. Perhaps, God willing, we will be there within a week. Right now there’s a stay on it for Idaho. Idaho’s the only state that has a stay on it.” He said, “States are the ones that should be in charge and have always been in  charge of the definition and the issuance of licenses for legal marriage.”

Asked if he would lead an effort to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act if he’s elected, banning discrimination on those bases, Balukoff said, “I would.” He said, “It just shows respect to grant them that hearing. To stonewall for eight years is not acceptable. ... We should grant the hearing and in my view we should strengthenr our human rights statute to include the four words.”

Otter said, “I met twice with the group last year that was advocating for adding the words. And the two times I met with them I agreed that the Legislature should hold a hearing. And I believe that the Legislature was that close to doing just that, until the antics started up, until we found people hiding in the closet, until they started stopping people from doing their legally elected jobs. … People that represented people right here in this room could not get into the chambers to do their jobs. Civil disobedience, when it stops duly elected legislators from doing their job, then I can understand the angst that it caused in the Legislature and finally the resistance.”

He added, “I would say that probably next year, most likely next year you will see a hearing for adding the words.” Balukoff responded, “That’s good news, that we have enough respect for these folks to have a hearing.” Otter said, “All I’m asking is that they show the Legislature the same respect.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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