When the "reddest" state Senate in the union cannot come up with the supermajority needed to send a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to the House for a vote, we know it's going to be one long battle for President Bush when he starts pushing this same proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This will not be an easy battle for either side. This week the Idaho State Senate voted against a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage... okay they didn't vote against it, but they certainly didn't come up with the votes needed for 2/3 majority that would send the bill to the State House of Representatives.
The problem in Idaho is not the absence of law prohibiting same-sex marriage, there is a law on the books stating this illegal act, but the problem is the fear that without the existence and protection of an amendment to the Idaho Constitution, judicial activists could legalize the practice of same-sex marriage. The vote on the bill (Bill SJR101), held this week, was a proposed amendment that would essentially define marriage as between one man and one woman (I say "one" as a reminder that polygamy is still a viable threat in this state and many other western states). The amendment would ban not only same-sex marriages, but civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state of Idaho.
I publicly applaud the 14 members of the Senate who opposed this bill and condone the 21 senators who supported the bill. (24 senators would have been needed to reach the supermajority) This is not the first time this bill has come up, not is it the last. This isn't the end of the bill--it will be back. The battle over same-sex marriage is not going anywhere, but I'm quite proud that the "blue" in this traditionally "red" state stood out this week...if only for a moment.
Senator Edgar Malepeai, a Pocatello educator, led the battle to resist the supermajority with the help of 13 other wise senators. Malepeai was quoted in our local paper, The Idaho State Journal, as saying that he is "not one that will support something that will take rights away, no matter who it (pertains to)." Of the two Bannock County Democrats in the State Senate, Malepeai was obviously the more courageous. Bert Marley voted for the ban on same-sex marriage. Now, I would consider Bert Marley a friend, he was my German, World History, and Mythology teacher in high school and was my former bishop, but I can't quite let his vote slip from my thoughts on this matter. Marley's vote, though possibly was shared with his constituents, may have been religiously motivated.
My point, if I have one, is that religion is motivating this new interest throughout the country concerning the "sanctity of marriage," as President Bush puts it. I agree that many of these marriages are motivated by economics. Many of those leading the front banning same-sex marriage are economically motivated, but the reason the nation--the public individuals who aren't part of the health insurance companies or the government--are interested is because it makes them question religion and morals. The reality is that approximately 78% of the American people are Christian. They believe the Bible more often than not. They believe that quite possibly there is a contradiction between what the Bible says about the so-called rights of homosexuals and what the Constitution says. That is the bottom line.
I can't say enough about the courage of Senator Malepeai. He's a good man and his actions remind me of those of several individuals Kennedy wrote about in Profiles in Courage. It takes a lot to go against the grain, he'll take a lot of heat for it, and you must remember this is the Grand Ole Party in Grand Ole Idaho running things. And I can't say much for Marley. He was quoted in the ISJ the day after his vote on same-sex marriage on another issue saying that, "he thing that continues to concern [him] is the concept that the rules of the Senate are more important than the rules of the Constitution," maybe he should think about the beliefs of the Idaho Senate versus the beliefs stated in the Constitution.
(*Editor's Note: The members of the Idaho State Senate have been ranked based on their votes regarding all homosexual issues, Marley received a D (anti-gay) and Malepeai a C (average). Interestingly enough, retired senator and recent unsuccessful U.S. Congress candidate Lin Whitworth received an A+.)