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Grassroots efforts grow to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in Idaho

Grassroots efforts grow to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in Idaho

A conservative group from eastern Idaho is spreading northward, trying to gain support for the next proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state. United Families Idaho was formed in November in Idaho Falls as part of the United Families International, a nonprofit organization formed in 1978. The Reverend Ron Vieselmeyer, a former state representative from the Coeur d'Alene area, said about 27 people showed up for a meeting Thursday night and were "gung ho" about getting signatures on a pro-amendment petition the organization plans to deliver to legislators. "We want people to know we're pro-family, not an antihomosexual group," he said. A proposal to amend the constitutional to recognize only marriages between one man and one woman failed in the legislature this past winter. The measure also would have banned civil unions. Two years ago a similar effort was killed in a senate committee after being handily passed by the house. This year the bill started in the senate, where it passed the committee, but it fell three votes short in the full senate of the two-thirds majority needed to pass. Six Republicans joined eight Democrats in voting against it. Meanwhile, a parallel movement in the Boise area has been going for several months. The Keep the Commandments Coalition, a conservative religious group initially formed to stop the city from moving a Ten Commandments monument off city grounds, has been dropping off "voter education" leaflets at doors in the 15th legislative fistrict. The leaflets ask people to contact Republican senator John Andreason of Boise, who voted against the amendment, and encourage him to change his vote. Andreason has said that he has no intention of doing so. In spite of the United Families Idaho's 30-plus-page catalog of reasons not to allow same-gender marriage, the group's president, Mike Duff of Blackfoot, said the organization has been taking a softer approach, deemphasizing opposition to gay marriage and focusing on protecting families. In the legislature last winter, supporters of the amendment "presented a positive image away from antihomosexual acts and moved it to the floor. We darn near got our way," Duff said. But the antigay sentiment is still there. Duff said homosexuality is "a behavioral practice that undermines the institutions of family and marriage. It's a lifestyle practice hurtful to those who engage in it and to society." The group's literature says members consider differing sexual orientations "developmental disorders." American Civil Liberties Union attorney Marty Durand said that despite the softer public position, it's still wrong to have the constitution benefit one group of people and not another, based on sexual orientation. "Our position all along has been, What are we protecting marriage from, more marriage? Just an attempt to deny gays and lesbians" the rights and responsibilities enjoyed by everyone else, she said. (AP)

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