Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Lawmakers wasting time on marriage debate


The Idaho Legislature has a long list of vitally important issues before it this session: the Nez Perce water deal, the depletion of the Snake River Plain Aquifer and what to do about it, highway plans, tax policy, telephone deregulation and prison sentencing.

What is it doing instead? Trying to push through the Senate a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and other kinds of domestic relationships—despite the fact that Idaho already prohibits gay marriage.

On Friday, the Senate State Affairs Committee sent the legislation—which is sponsored by Republican Sens. Gerry Sweet of Meridian and Curt McKenzie of Nampa—to the full Senate to be heard by members today.

The amendment would state: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status similar to that of marriage."

A proposed constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate and the House. Then a simple majority of voters must approve it in the 2006 General Election ballot.

The primary argument put forth by Sen. McKenzie, who introduced the bill, went as follows: "In our democratic republic, fundamental policy should be set by the people, not through the courts."

Indeed, Senator. If this argument is to be taken to its logical end, the people should decide matters of the heart—not the courts and not 23 Republican senators.

Does the national flap over gay marriage affect the economic health of our state? Does it play a role in our environmental legacy? Does it have anything to do with solving the impending Medicaid budget crisis? Does it reveal a solution to our complex water problems?

No on all counts.

Gay marriage, civil unions, and common-law marriage—which may be invalidated along the way—threaten nothing but the sensibilities of a few stodgy, old lawmakers. And the sensibilities of a few have no standing in civil rights issues, of which this is one.

Legislators might consider taking to heart President Bush's vow—to be a uniter not a divider.

It is hard to see how barring two people who love each other from a civil union achieves any good, let alone unites anyone or anything.

After this foray into silliness, and if the Legislature still feels that tackling the real issues facing the state is too daunting, perhaps they could take up the threat of SpongeBob SquarePants and his friend Patrick. Some folks suspect they're gay, surely brainwashing our children, and threatening all the institutions we hold dear.

After cartoons and marriage, the Legislature can use the short time it will have left to take up all that other stuff.




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