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
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
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)