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Anti-same-sex
marriage amendment alive in Idaho

Anti-same-sex
marriage amendment alive in Idaho

Tony Edmondson is a private person who sticks close to home. He never expected to stand up and describe his personal life to dozens of strangers. But Edmondson traveled to the Idaho statehouse from his home in Weiser on Thursday to speak out against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Idaho. He wanted members of the house state affairs committee to know what kind of people their vote would affect. "I'm not a TV character or pedophile," said Edmondson, a medical office manager who has been with his male partner, a Vietnam War combat veteran, for 35 years. "I am, in fact, more like you. Frankly, I'd rather visit with you about our collection of old cars or simply complain about our property taxes. Instead, I'm compelled to focus on matters of character." The committee heard testimony from 38 people before voting 13-4 in favor of the discriminatory proposal. The measure must win approval from two thirds of the full house and senate before it can go before voters on the ballot next fall. It's the third try for the amendment. Last year it was defeated by the senate, and in 2004 it failed to make it out of committee. Most of those who testified Thursday said they opposed the amendment, which would "provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Donna Yule of Boise told the panel she has three sons--two married and one in a same-sex committed relationship. "The dumbest argument I've heard is from those people who seem to think that somehow his loving relationship poses some kind of threat to their own marriages," Yule said. But there were also plenty of people who told the committee that approving the measure was vitally important to Idaho's future. While opponents say the measure is not necessary because state law already defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, supporters say the amendment would prevent judges' overturning that law. "Amending the state constitution is necessary because, unfortunately, judges in a few other states have shown a willingness to redefine marriage as suits their whims," said Clayton Cramer, a Boise software engineer and writer. "Please make sure that the power to define marriage stays where it belongs, with the people and their legislators." Many speakers said the Bible affirms their views against same-sex marriage. "Normalcy is a man and a woman; God made us that way," said Katherine Frazier of Boise. "Now we're seeing that normalcy is supposed to include anything." Idaho is one of many states considering the issue. According to the New York-based Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization, 18 of the 50 states have amended their constitutions to limit marriage to male-female unions. Washington State, where the legislature recently banned discrimination against gays, is awaiting a state supreme court decision on a challenge to its 1998 ban on same-sex marriage. Massachusetts allows gays to marry; Vermont and Connecticut allow gay couples to enter into civil unions that give the partners most of the rights and benefits of marriage. But activists in many states are trying to impose or strengthen same-sex marriage bans. Idaho fits into that pattern, said Edmondson, a first-time activist. "It's taken on a momentum," he said of the movement against marriage equality. "It's probably the right time for me to a be a little more vocal and to put a face on this issue." Edmondson, 54, a former city councilman and county commissioner, thinks lawmakers will be more likely to vote against such a ban if they know who it affects. He told the panel that when he confided to a pastor 20 years ago that he was gay, the pastor recommended to Edmondson's employer that Edmondson be fired. Edmondson's still at that job. "It really tested their view of God and what God's love was, and they rose to the challenge," he said. "I'll be forever grateful." Republican representative Steve Smylie of Boise voted for the proposed amendment. "Things that were never discussed 20 years ago are now the subject of a television series," Smylie said in a statement. "Anyone who expresses discomfort is branded as 'closed-minded' or, worse, a 'bigot.'" Republican representative Bob Ring of Caldwell voted against it. "Ten years ago I would have voted yes," said Ring, who is 70. "I've changed in my views of what the constitution is about. I personally think the constitution should not be used for religious prejudice." (AP)

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