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Marriage Equality

Idaho Gov. Sticks to Money-Wasting Defense of Antigay Marriage Law

Idaho Gov. Sticks to Money-Wasting Defense of Antigay Marriage Law


Despite several court rulings and a decided victory in the court of public opinion, Idaho governor Butch Otter isn't willing to let marriage equality take hold in the Gem State.

Same-sex couples in Idaho have been able to marry for weeks, but that hasn't stopped Gov. Butch Otter from digging in his heels -- and into the state coffers -- to fund a legal defense of the state's unconstitutional marriage ban.

The Huffington Post reports that Otter said he's "not ready to surrender to a few folks in black robes," during a gubernatorial debate, though it's not clear during which debate he made those remarks. "I'm not ready to surrender the will of the people in the state of Idaho, as they expressed in 2006 in an overwhelming majority," he continued.

Otter did face some criticism for his stalwart defense of marriage discrimination from his third-party challenger, Libertarian John Bujak, at Thursday's debate, reports the Idaho Statesman.

Bujak told the incumbent governor -- who continues to defend the state's marriage ban even as same-sex couples wed -- that he was fighting "a losing battle."

"That ship has sailed, you might as well be arguing about interracial marriage at this point," Bujak said, according to the Statesman.

Aside from the political cost of stubbornly refusing to embrace marriage equality, Otter's dogged defense of discrimination also has a hefty price tag for Idaho taxpayers: The Spokesman Review of neighboring Spokane, Wash., reports that Otter's legal defense of the ban has already racked up a bill of more than $91,000, including a recent payment of $10,000 to an antigay attorney who filed a petition asking for a rehearing from a larger panel of judges on the federal appeals court that overturned the state's ban in October.

While Otter stuck to his existing message about marriage equality during Thursday's debate, he did indicate an unexpected willingness to add LGBT protections to the state's nondiscrimination ordinance -- something activists have been begging the legislature to do, even getting arrested repeatedly during protests at the state capitol, for months.

But Thursday night, Otter said he would sign legislation that adds the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's Human Rights Act, according to the Statesman. Otter couched his support by saying he had "some reservations" and noting that the legislation would have to make it through the state legislature before a governor could sign it into law. Otter claimed there will be hearings on what activists have dubbed legislation to "Add the Words" in the 2015 session.

Both Otter's challengers for the governor's mansion -- Democrat A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian Bujak -- have expressed their support for marriage equality.

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