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News >  Idaho

Idaho representatives vote against routine tax bill over same-sex marriage issues

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 26, 2017

Idaho state Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, speaks on the floor of the House. Nate is leading a group of 30 lawmakers suing to overturn Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of legislation to repeal the state’s grocery tax. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)
Idaho state Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, speaks on the floor of the House. Nate is leading a group of 30 lawmakers suing to overturn Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of legislation to repeal the state’s grocery tax. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)

BOISE – Eighteen members of the Idaho House voted against a routine bill Thursday over same-sex marriage issues, though the measure must pass before Idahoans can start filing their state tax returns.

The bill would conform Idaho’s state income tax code to IRS rules, an annual exercise.

But an eastern Idaho representative said that act puts the state Constitution – which still contains a clause forbidding same-sex marriage, though courts have invalidated it – at odds with federal law that allows married same-sex couples to file joint returns.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said the clause is still in the Idaho Constitution, and he suggested House members would be violating their oath to support the state Constitution if they voted for the tax conformity bill.

“A way to fix this would be to amend the Idaho Constitution so we don’t have this conflict,” he said. “Amend that section out, and then we can vote with a clear conscience that we’re upholding the law.”

Two Democratic House members introduced a personal bill last year to do just that, but it never got a hearing.

Further, Nate argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide was in error, and he believes states can choose not to abide by high court decisions if they don’t think they are constitutionally correct.

That’s the same concept Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, put forward in new legislation he introduced in a House committee on Thursday. His proposed bill would declare that Idaho lawmakers can overturn “any executive order, federal law, federal regulation, federal court or U.S. Supreme Court decision” that they deem “not constitutional as compared to the original intent of the United States Constitution.” Such state “nullification” efforts have long been deemed unconstitutional.

In September, an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion advised Shepherd that his concept violated both the Idaho and U.S. constitutions.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, told the House, “This decision is very simple for me. The question is are we going to ignore our oaths we’ve taken and our Idaho state Constitution, because it’s the easy thing to do, or are we going to start standing up as a sovereign state and making decisions for the citizens that fall in line with our Idaho state Constitution? I will be voting no on this bill.”

The other North Idaho representatives who voted against the bill, HB 26, were Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird; and Eric Redman, R-Athol.

Barbieri said it’s important to note the “disharmony” between the remaining wording in Idaho’s Constitution and federal law. “We’ve got to continue to point out that disharmony, so that it doesn’t look like we’re just capitulating,” he said.

The measure now moves to the Senate. Last year, an identical bill aroused similar debate in the House, but passed the Senate, 32-2, and was signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter.

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