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Eye on Boise: Five Wives vodka, four wives lawsuit

BOISE – The attorney and law professor who prompted Idaho’s state liquor division to reverse itself on allowing Five Wives vodka to be sold in the state last week also is pressing a lawsuit challenging Utah’s bigamy laws on behalf of the star of the reality TV show “Sister Wives.”

Jonathan Turley, an attorney and law professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., last week sent a letter threatening a federal lawsuit if Idaho didn’t reverse itself and allow the provocatively labeled vodka brand to be sold in the state; state liquor officials had rejected the brand as offensive to the state’s large Mormon population.

It’s produced by an Ogden, Utah, distillery and is approved for sale in Utah state liquor stores.

Within hours of receiving Turley’s letter, which raised multiple constitutional challenges to Idaho’s earlier decision, Idaho state liquor division Director Jeff Anderson announced that Idahoans could immediately purchase Five Wives vodka by special order from any state liquor store; he’s also reconsidering a request to stock the product on state liquor store shelves.

Anderson said the reversal came “to avoid unnecessary litigation costs.”

In Turley’s Utah case, Utah announced on May 31 that it wouldn’t prosecute Kody Brown and his four wives for bigamy, but Turley and Brown pledged to continue the lawsuit.

Brown and his wives and 16 children moved to Nevada after Lehi, Utah, police began an investigation into possible charges after the family appeared on the TLC reality series. They sued to overturn Utah’s bigamy law, citing issues of privacy and religious freedom.

Turley argued that the Browns didn’t have multiple marriage licenses and were being prosecuted “solely because they call themselves a family in the eyes of their church.”

“The disparate treatment of polygamists denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution,” Turley wrote in the lawsuit.

Falcons hatch atop office tower

Three chicks hatched last weekend in the peregrine falcon nest high atop a downtown Boise building, One Capitol Center at 10th and Main streets.

You can see their progress, and that of the parents who are carefully tending them, on a live webcam sponsored by the Peregrine Fund, Idaho Fish & Game and Fiberpipe, at The chicks weighed about an ounce and a half when they hatched but will be full grown by the time they leave the nest.

According to the Peregrine Fund, by the time they fledge in July, the young falcons will be 18 inches tall and have a wingspan of more than 3 feet. Young falcons typically fledge five to six weeks after hatching.

For now, the adults are brooding the chicks, keeping them warm as they’re too small to regulate their own body temperature; that will continue for about 10 days. The nest box, on the 14th floor of the office tower, has been used by wild peregrine falcons each spring since 2003; falcons typically nest on rocky cliffs or tall buildings like the one in Boise that simulate a rocky cliff environment.

Once an endangered species, the peregrine falcon was restored through a captive-breeding and release program by the Peregrine Fund. The fast-flying bird of prey, known for its spectacular high-speed dives, was removed from the endangered species list in 1999. Today, there are about two dozen breeding pairs in Idaho.

Anti-referendum group organizes

Gov. Butch Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna have named leaders for their campaign to fight three voter referendums in November that seek to overturn the “Students Come First” school reform laws Luna and Otter championed in 2011. The controversial laws roll back teachers’ collective bargaining rights and shift existing school funding to a new focus on online learning, laptop computers for every student, and a new performance-pay bonus system for teachers, along with other changes.

Opponents gathered more than 74,000 signatures to place the referendums on the ballot, but follow-up bills added emergency clauses so that the reform laws took effect in the meantime; that would stop if voters decide in November to repeal them. Last week, the state Department of Education announced the 32 school districts that will be up first to receive laptops, with teachers to get them this fall and students in fall 2013.

The new “Yes for Idaho Education” group will be co-chaired by state Board of Education member Milford Terrell and Idaho Falls school board member Wendy Horman, with retiring state Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, as treasurer. Lobbyist Ken Burgess is coordinating the effort. Burgess said Otter plans a formal launch for the group in the coming days.