Wednesday, June 7, 2006

ACLU campaigns against marriage amendment

Express Staff Writer

Michael Mitchell believes Idahoans will reject the state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage in November. He lobbied against the measure in Sun Valley on Saturday. Photo by Chris Pilaro

Idaho voters will cast ballots in November on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. If approved, it would mean "a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized" in Idaho.

Michael Mitchell, campaign manager for the National American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Project, spoke in Sun Valley, Saturday, June 3, to an audience at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

"We were having our board retreat here, and we invited him as a coinciding event. He's pretty disarming," said Wood River Valley resident Gene Dallago, a board member of ACLU Idaho. "This fellow is from Preston, Idaho, the land of 'Napoleon Dynamite.'"

Mitchell coined his talk, "Sustained Victory: Turning Idaho's Discriminatory Marriage Amendment into an Opportunity for Positive, Long Term Change." The title is weighty, equal to the ongoing, nationwide debate.

"The amendment provides an opportunity for decent, fair-minded people across the state to stand up and say no to discrimination," Mitchell said. "It also gives us an opportunity to tell real life stories about people adversely affected by this measure.

"As a native Idahoan, I know first hand these stories exist. Proposed amendments like this are antithetical to American values of self-determination, autonomy, free expression and equality."

Mitchell said the push to ban same-sex unions across the country is driven by the "fear factor." He said approximately 23 nations around the world sanction gay marriage or civil unions, including Spain.

"Have they fallen off the edge of the world? Has it had negative impact? Have heterosexual unions decreased because of it?" Dallago paraphrased later.

"It's about equal rights under the law," Dallago said. "The 14th Amendment was written for everyone."

Finally, Mitchell expressed optimism. He said he believes Idahoans will reject the proposed amendment.

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