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Opposition builds in Idaho senate to gay marriage ban

Opposition builds in Idaho senate to gay marriage ban

As Wednesday's vote on an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage draws closer in Idaho, legislators who are expected to vote against it are firming up their opposition. And if the measure fails to pass this week, the sponsors said, the bill probably won't be brought back for at least a year. The proposal would invalidate any type of marriage or civil union except those between one man and one woman. There is also some question about whether common-law marriages and other domestic living arrangements might be inadvertently affected. Constitutional amendments must pass the house and senate by at least a two-thirds majority to advance to the next stage. After that, the issue goes to the voters. Only a simple majority is required to pass such a measure in a general election. In the senate, 12 votes against any constitutional amendment are enough to kill it. By Monday, 13 senators had said they intend to vote in opposition to the gay marriage amendment, and at least two more have said they are leaning against it. Boise State University political science professor Jim Weatherby said that in this case, senators will feel more comfortable voting against the measure if many of their friends do too. "The more you have voting no, the more cover it provides for those in the dissenting vote," Weatherby said. Advocates on both sides have been working hard in the statehouse and on the Internet during the past week. The Reverend Bryan Fischer, a conservative Boise pastor who served as senate chaplain in 2001, sent an e-mail to his supporters on Saturday asking them to target GOP senator John Andreason of Boise and Democratic senator Edgar Malepeai of Pocatello to support the amendment. Fischer encouraged his followers to call the senators, and he included their home telephone numbers. "I've received seven or eight calls, but none of them from my own district," said Andreason, who added none of them were persuasive. Fischer told his supporters that Malepeai lives in a highly Mormon district in Pocatello. "It will be especially helpful for him to hear from fellow members of the LDS faith community," Fischer wrote. Malepeai acknowledged that he has had more than 50 calls and e-mails from constituents, but he said about half of his contacts were from people who wanted him to vote against the amendment. Many senators and other capitol watchers have expected that the legislation might be changed as it moved through the legislature, removing one sentence that could be construed to outlaw arrangements of opposite-sex couples living together. But the bill's floor sponsor, Republican senator Curt McKenzie of Nampa, said he isn't willing to do that. "I'm not planning to do anything but run the bill," McKenzie said Monday. "The debate is focused on this bill, this vote." Last year a similar measure passed the house but stalled in a senate committee. Procedural moves to hold a vote on the bill anyway also failed. This year house speaker Bruce Newcomb said that if opponents of same-sex marriage wanted to tackle the issue again, they needed to get it through the senate first. Republican house majority leader Lawerence Denney of Midvale reaffirmed that commitment on Monday. But 2006 may be a different story. "Not this year, but probably the next," Denney said. (AP)

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