The political leader responsible for Idaho's law prohibiting gay marriage is advising state lawmakers to drop their attempt to put the ban in the state constitution. "Passing a constitutional amendment in Idaho would do absolutely nothing," U.S. representative Michael Simpson said. The Republican legislator made his comments during a meeting Tuesday with the editorial board of the Post Register in Idaho Falls.
As the speaker of the Republican-dominated Idaho house in 1996, Simpson guided the state Defense of Marriage Act to overwhelming majorities in both houses of the legislature. Conservative lawmakers revived the issue during this past winter's election-year session, pushing a constitutional amendment that mirrored the state law. They cited the decision of state courts in Massachusetts validating same-sex marriage to justify what they claimed is a needed extra layer of protection for Idaho against its being forced to recognize gay and lesbian marriages performed in other states.
Although the proposal cleared the house easily, it became extremely divisive during the final month of the session and was ultimately blocked by the state senate's leadership committee. Advocates convinced the state Republican Party to include support for the antigay amendment in its platform and have indicated they will raise the issue again in the 2005 session.
But Simpson said the U.S. Supreme Court could just as easily override a state constitutional amendment as it could a state law, maintaining that the policy has to be set at the federal level to make sure each state can decide for itself whether to recognize gay marriage. A bill blocking federal courts from ruling on same-sex marriage cases passed the U.S. House easily last week, but it is not expected to clear the Senate before Congress adjourns this year.