Thursday, March 30, 2023

OPINION: Idahoans support LGBTQ rights

by EVAN KOCH/More Perfect Union
| December 7, 2022 1:00 AM

Most Democrats and Republicans agree that strong, supportive family relationships are important. Idahoans also have a healthy respect for limiting government interference in people's private lives. So why did our Republican lawmakers vote against the Respect for Marriage Act?

It comes down to a difference in definitions: They don’t define family as a supportive, nurturing, lifelong relationship between consenting adults. Democrats do.

The Respect For Marriage Act does three main things. First, it repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that bans same-sex marriage. Second, it requires the U.S. federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages in the U.S. For example, if a couple was legally married in Washington, Idaho would have to recognize that union if that couple moves here. Finally, it protects religious liberty.

Idaho Republican lawmakers were not only out of touch on the issue, but they completely mischaracterized it.

In defense of his no vote, Sen. Mike Crapo said “I will not support the legislation … What it does is require every single state to agree with whatever any other state decides is a marriage. And that … is something that the states under our Constitution have the right to determine.”

As a border region, Kootenai County should be especially concerned about Crapo’s sliding scale for what qualifies as a marriage. Basic family relationships that are designed to go the distance shouldn’t change with a 30-minute drive.

This “states’ rights” approach to a fundamental aspect of humanity sets up marriage as something changeable — contingent on the notions of different politicians in different states with different constituencies. If marriage is to be a sacred bond that endures, then shouldn’t it be federally protected no matter where life takes you?

Sen. Jim Risch also voted against the bill, shifting the blame for his stance onto Idaho voters. Unfortunately, the voter feedback he based his decision on was more than 16 years old.

In a statement to the Idaho Statesman, Risch said his beliefs conform to those of Idaho voters, who in 2006 approved an amendment to the state constitution with the same interpretation of marriage.

“Idaho has a constitutional amendment on the books defining marriage as its voters determined, and that is the standard I support,” Risch said to the Statesman. “The federal government has no business attempting to direct our views on this matter.”

However, in the years since 2006, perspectives around LGBTQ rights have significantly evolved. In 2014, 49% of Idaho residents said they support same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Research Center survey. That’s compared to 39% who said they oppose it and 12% who said they don’t know.

Then, in 2015, the landmark civil right case, Obergefell v. Hodges, declared that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

More recently, a June Gallup poll found support for same-sex marriage nationally reached 71%.

This support for LGBTQ+ rights also expanded in Idaho. In October, the Idaho Statesman conducted polling on The Idaho Human Rights Act. This section of Idaho law bars discrimination based on race, religion and sex. But for years, Republican Boise lawmakers have loudly declared that the law should not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the Statesman’s polling suggests that attitudes around LGBTQ support are changing. About 60% of respondents said state law should protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, while 28% said it should not and 12% said they’re not sure. By this and many other examples, Risch is cherry-picking old information to support a personal belief.

Democrats urge our elected representatives to get with the program. The rest of the world accepts that love can exist between any two people, and Idaho should as well.

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Evan Koch is chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats.

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