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Eye On Boise

Party-line vote in House panel backs non-binding measure to impeach federal judges over same-sex marriage

Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, won support on a 12-4 party-line vote in the House State Affairs Committee this morning for his non-binding memorial, HJM 4, calling for Congress to support impeachment of federal judges who rule in favor of same-sex marriage. “All the people in the United States seem to be just rolling over with whatever the Supreme Court comes down with, so we need to do something about the Supreme Court,” Shepherd told the committee. He said there will be “impact on my grandkids ... if the United States is going to condone something that I think is very immoral. … I can’t lay down, I gotta stand up and take it serious.”

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, agreed, saying, “I share the frustration that Rep. Shepherd hears regarding our judiciary. ... There’s an incredible amount of arrogance that’s taken place with our judiciary. … It’s unbelievable what the federal courts have done with the 14th Amendment, applying it to questions like abortion.” He also mentioned pornography, saying such decisions should be left up to states. Bateman said the founding fathers who wrote the amendment are “rolling around in their graves.”

Shepherd said slave owners thought they were being good Christians, and he doesn’t dispute that, but his view is different. “Their Christian moral beliefs were that blacks were inferior,” he said. “They thought they were good Christians, good moral people, and I’m sure most of them were. But it just proves that our interpretation of Christian morals can be very far and wide … so I have no disrespect for anyone that sees it different than I do. But … this has to get settled. Marriage is too important to the future of our society to just roll over and let this go.”

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said, “The good representative referenced Alabama, and the decisions made there. But when I think of Alabama I think of a governor who stood in front of a schoolhouse and wouldn’t let black children enter. And good Christians, I’m glad he bought that up, good Christians made laws that were racist and exclusive and violent. And thank God we had courts to say that was unconstitutional. Thank God we had the courts to interpret these laws and say that is not the way our country is.”

She said, “I would say that arrogance and ignorance does not isolate itself to any one branch of this government. I cannot support this. It feels embarrassing to me. And it doesn’t do anything to bring our state together, it just does everything to divide it more. It breaks my heart. And I wish that we could stop dividing our state and come together with love and compassion and allow people to be who they were within their own skin and their own lives, pay taxes, go to work, and be good, loving people.”

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “There’s no way else it can be accomplished than by a man and a woman. Our constitution supports the marriage as we know it today.”

After the committee voted down Wintrow’s substitute motion to kill the measure, Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, who is gay, said he wanted to speak before the final vote. “This joint memorial is about same-sex marriage, and there’s nobody in here that understands this better than I do,” he said, “and I know that no one else in here has experienced what I have gone through.”

“I fell in love a little over 14 years ago, and the person that I fell in love with, we started to build our lives together,” McCrostie said. “We fixed up a home, we were able to sell that and move into a nicer home, we got a dog, a cat found us that we can’t get rid of. We mow our lawn, we keep our home in decent shape, we have friends over, and an opportunity came a little less than a year and a half ago for us to actually have the opportunity to be married. And for those of you who are married, I bet you understand. I remember looking into the eyes of the person that I love and saying ‘I do,’ and how my life was transformed in that moment.”

“That’s why marriage equality matters,” he said, “and I can’t describe it any better than that. I can’t put words to why marriage matters, I can just tell you that it does. And this continues to put Idaho on the wrong side of history. … This bill puts us on the wrong side of history again, and I would encourage you to vote no on this.”

Bateman said, “I’m not going to address the topic of same-sex marriage. It’ just who should decide, who should define what marriage is, and historically that’s been left up to the states. … Until 1972 such questions as abortion was always decided by the states. … We all know that there’s discrimination that occurs in society. … But who should decide these questions, that’s what we need to think about. If you’re going to give all the power on the federal government, it can come back to bite you, I’ll tell you. I had ancestors that were chased from pillar to post not by the states but by the federal government. … States discriminate, there’s no question about it and it’s wrong. But when should the federal government come in and try to correct everything the states do? If they do that, then we’ve got a centralized society.”

Just the committee's four Democrats voted against the measure.

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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