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Marriage Equality

Idaho Spends Thousands on Lackluster Defense of Marriage Ban

Idaho Spends Thousands on Lackluster Defense of Marriage Ban


Attorney Monte Stewart has accrued tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, with little to show for it.

So far, the state of Idaho has spent a little over $71,000 to defend its marriage ban. And what do they have to show for it? Not much.

The bulk of the expense came from the governor's general fund, and went to Monte Stewart, a private attorney chosen to represent the state.

Stewart's payout so far has covered his hourly rate of $250, which includes $50,000 for preparing briefs and $7,000 for oral argument before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stewart's performance at the oral argument was generally considered lackluster. He recycled the same claims about "channeling" procreation that have been rejected by dozens of judges over the last year and a half.

The state of Idaho had the option to present arguments of its own, but chose instead to give all of its time to Stewart.

At times, Stewart had difficulty remembering details, referred to the wrong state, and admitted to making up the term "bonding right" to suggest that children require attachment to their biological parents.

Stewart also claimed that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry would discourage heterosexual men from bonding with their children. An incredulous Judge Marsha Berzon asked, "has that happened in Massachusetts? ... My understanding is no."

In addition, Stewart argued that marriage equality would be more harmful than divorce. That, too, was met with skepticism by the three-judge panel.

Stewart's $57,000 argument also included terminology like "genderless marriage," an insulting nonsense-term that would seem to betray his claim that supporters of the ban are not motivated by animus.

The cost to defend Idaho's marriage ban is likely to significantly increase. Earlier this year, the plaintiffs asked to be reimbursed for $467,000 in expenses after they won the first round of litigation. Lawmakers have set aside $1 million for the ban's defense.

"The price is too high for switching to a radically different meaning of the definition of marriage," Stewart told the court. He couldn't identify what that "price" would be, perhaps because it doesn't exist, and even if it did, would surely be less than the price of defending inequality.

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Matt Baume