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June 16, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 24
 
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Idaho Votes No Campaign has launched
Idaho Votes No Campaign has launched
by Andrea Shipley

An amendment which would limit legal recognition of marriage to unions between one man and one woman will be on the Idaho ballot this November. The proposed amendment is considered especially harmful because it bans any relationship that "approximates marriage."

The amendment would "prohibit recognition by the State of Idaho, or any of its political subdivisions, of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage, no matter how denominated...(and) prohibit the State of Idaho, or any of its political subdivisions, from granting any or all of the legal benefits of marriage to civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage."

By including this language relating to civil unions and domestic partnerships, this amendment goes beyond the State's existing ban on state recognition of same sex marriages and codifies the change in the State constitution, with potential impacts on any unions not licensed by the current marriage laws of the State.

The existing Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 that barred federal recognition of same sex marriages was the opening salvo in this battle about families and family values that reaches across lines of race, faith, class, gender identity and culture. Since 1996, more than 13 states have adopted constitutional bans against same sex marriages, including Montana and Oregon.

In Idaho, we beat back similar proposed amendments for two consecutive years in the state legislature. In 2004, Sheila Sorensen, chair of the Senate Affairs Committee and current candidate for one of Idahoís Congressional seats, withstood enormous political pressure and killed the measure by not allowing a hearing. In 2005, the bill was defeated 14-21 in the Senate. This year the bill was passed by both the Idaho House and Senate, most likely to gain momentum for the upcoming legislative election cycle. Once again, the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people were made into pawns in a much bigger game.

Idaho's anti-Gay marriage amendment will not only affect LGBT families, but straight families as well because of the "new" definition of marriage. Also, committed couples opting not to marry, still face all the legal battles and expenses that same-sex couples face. This amendment will prevent existing families from receiving the 500 plus benefits of marriage offered to other families. It is impossible to obtain all the equivalent protections of marriage by private contract (e.g., you can't change hospital policies by contracting with your partner). To obtain as many of these protections as possible would cost many thousands of dollars in legal fees, thus providing very limited protections and only for those with sufficient economic privilege.

Currently, a coalition of organizations is working hard to campaign against this amendment. Key coalition members include: Your Family, Friends and Neighbors (YFFN), which is Idahoís legislative advocacy voice for the LGBT community, PFLAG, ACLU, Idaho Womenís Network, and The Interfaith Alliance. Leaders from these organizations are traveling to seven targeted communities across Idaho to train and cultivate new leaders in order to create a unified statewide campaign. Through this collaborative campaign, the coalition hopes to build the first statewide coalition of LGBT groups and allies while continuing to link issues for a stronger progressive movement in Idaho. We know this not just a constitutional issue - it is a human rights issue.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in this campaign. Perhaps the most important way to get involved is by sharing your story with your friends, co-workers, families, community and neighbors. Other ways to get involved include:

o Candid conversations around the water cooler at work that demystify our lives and debunk myths will have the greatest impact on changing the hearts and minds of those who think they don't know someone who is LGBT.

o A great way to exercise free expression is by writing a letter to the editor explaining that this hurts Idaho's families.

o Have a party! It is difficult for our community and families to hear homophobic rhetoric everywhere we turn. Hosting a house party is a great way to break the isolation, fear and anger you may feel. It is also a great way to raise money for the campaign!

o Take time to take care of yourself and others who are fighting this amendment. These battles are hard and leaders are forced to make decisions at the drop of a hat. Let's celebrate our triumphs and mistakes as we work to change hearts and minds in Idaho ñ one person at a time.

o When the campaign gets launched in early June, join a committee!

This campaign is an opportunity for Idaho in so many ways. In the end we hope to build new leaders to create a vibrant statewide coalition of LGBT activists who work for the human rights of all. Please help us reach our goals!

To learn more about the campaign in Idaho, please visit our website at www.fairidaho.org.

Courtesy of Diversity Newsmagazine (www.Gayidaho.org)

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