BOISE, Idaho — A major win in congress for LGBTQ+ supporters, the Senate voted in favor of advancing legislation that would codify protections for same-sex marriage. A 62-37 procedural vote in the senate clears the way for final votes on the Respect for Marriage Act.
The Respect for Marriage Act does a few things. Congressional sponsors explain that the act would require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. The bill would not require a State to issue a marriage license contrary to state law.
To be clear, the act still needs to go through some more hoops, but it appears it will soon pass in Congress and go to the president's desk.
The procedural vote tally saw all Senate Democrats vote yes, with a handful of Republicans crossing party lines to also vote yes. The Republican votes got the act over the procedural hump. Idaho’s senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, were not among the Republicans who voted "yes."
“Not surprised. I mean, it's sad,” said Donald Williamson, executive director for Boise Pride. “It would be nice to see them not always vote against marginalized communities and equal rights every single time.”
So, why did Senators Crapo and Risch vote no on the Respect for Marriage Act?
Senator Crapo wrote in a statement that: “This bill would federalize the law of marriage, mandating that every state follow every other state’s marriage laws, establishing private rights of action and Justice Department enforcement. I firmly support states' rights to determine the definition of marriage. Idaho has the Constitutional right to define marriage as its voters and duly elected officials determine...”
Senator Risch writes: “Regarding same-sex marriage, Idaho has a constitutional amendment on the books defining marriage as its voters determined, and that is the standard I support. The federal government has no business attempting to direct our views on this matter. In addition, this bill lacks crucial religious liberty protections for individuals, schools, adoption agencies, and faith-based organizations that hold valid religious views that disagree with this mandate.”
“I find that ironic because I found it as yet another example of elected officials trying to force their personal, deeply held religious beliefs on everybody else that they that they govern because not everybody worships the way that they worship," said Williamson. "But, you know, like I said, it's sad, but it's not surprising."
Williamson says he understands the arguments against the act, but regardless no votes on the Respect for Marriage Act still sends a message to the Idaho LGBTQ+ community. Similar to Idaho legislation that has targeted the LGBTQ+ community in recent years.
“And every time we see bills like that, it's an attempt to further take a chink in the armor at dehumanizing this whole sect of the population," said Williamson. "And when we see them voting against a bill that was nothing more than simply making it so that every state had to recognize the marriage of any couple, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation or whatever. It's disheartening and it's infuriating."
Williamson says it is encouraging to see the Respect for Marriage Act getting enough support on a national level to likely see it pass. Still, the reality of the situation is many elected officials do not support the idea in Idaho.
“If that's your deeply held beliefs, great. More power to you. Just don't go to the wedding. And don't let those people in your church if that's how you want to worship,” Williamson said. “It's not taking away their personal freedoms. It's not forcing you to acknowledge it. It's just forcing the state to acknowledge it.”
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