A state constitutional ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Court after court has reached the same conclusion in recent years, most notably last month in Utah.
So we were perplexed when Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter pledged Friday to write a blank check to fight a skirmish he can’t win.
Otter said he’s willing to cough up whatever is needed to defend in federal court Idaho’s 2006 constitutional amendment, which says the only recognized legal union in the state is between a man and a woman. It’s a multimillion-dollar bet on an empty hand. It’s an irresponsible, symbolic move at a time when Idaho’s schools are failing and its roads are crumbling.
The two-term Republican made the state Constitution sound as if it was written in stone and altering the document is sacrilege. But they’re called “amendments” for a reason. Flexibility is the point.
State House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, sounded a similar battle cry, arguing that it’s the state’s duty to safeguard the same-sex marriage ban, even as evidence mounts that it flies in the face of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m not one to vacate the field on this one,” Bedke said.
We understand that gay marriage is a sensitive, incredibly personal issue for many. But the dominoes are falling, sometimes in federal court and other times on legislative floors. History won’t look kindly on those who took the wrong side of this era’s civil rights issue. Do we really want to spend millions so we can be remembered in 50 years as one of “those states”?
Utah is taking its appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Utah Attorney General’s Office estimated last week that the appeal will cost at least $2 million. That doesn’t even take into account the time and money already spent on the original case. Even the Roberts Court doesn’t bode well for the state. These are the same justices who last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The evidence is clear that Idaho will lose its case against four Ada County couples. Fighting it with all the legal power the state can muster is nothing but taxpayer-funded, election-year pandering.
Idaho has real, concrete problems that could use an extra few million bucks. Waging this hopeless war only serves to earn unflattering mentions in future textbooks.