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Idaho lawmakers
debate marriage amendment--again

Idaho lawmakers
debate marriage amendment--again

Idaho Republicans are discussing whether to try for a third time in as many years to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Last year the state senate failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority needed to put the issue up for a public vote, which is required to change the Idaho constitution. A moderate Republican, former state senator Sheila Sorensen of Boise, who's now running for U.S. Congress, used her position as chairwoman of the senate state affairs committee to deny the issue a hearing after it had passed the Idaho house. The Idaho Republican Party's platform includes a ban on same-sex marriage, and some legislators believe this, along with property tax reform, could be the dominant issue of the 2006 legislative session. Idaho already has a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but socially conservative legislators in an election year could try to use the debate over inserting it into the constitution as a way of raising their profiles. Eleven states passed ballot measures amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. And on Friday a judge upheld Oregon's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, which could give Idaho proponents new momentum. "This isn't just a conservative issue," said speaker of the house Bruce Newcomb. "I can tell you: Everywhere I go and whenever I give a talk, the people of Idaho tell me this is what they want." If it comes up, such legislation would begin in the house, and Newcomb said he'd want to address it as the first issue--to make sure there aren't any "emotional issues hanging around." Newcomb wouldn't carry such a bill--but he has been plotting strategy with senate president pro tem Bob Geddes, in addition to other Republicans from southern Idaho and the Boise area who are interested in the subject. At the center of the talks now: how a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would be worded. Some senators who voted against the measure in 2005 pledged to renew their opposition in January, when the 2006 session starts. "My contention is, that is not the way to use the constitution," said Sen. Chuck Coiner, a Republican from Twin Falls. "We have a law on the books. It's not challenged. It's a very contentious issue. It will burn up a lot of legislative time that could be used more constructively." (AP)

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