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Idaho Senators vote against advance of same-sex marriage bill

Kyle Green
Idaho Statesman
Idaho Senators Mike Crapo (left) and Jim Risch as seen in this undated file photo. Both men voted against a procedural vote to advance a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, saying it's a policy decision that should be left up to the states.

Both of Idaho’s U.S. senators voted against a procedural move to advance legislation repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday.

That law, which has been on the books since 1996, defines marriage as between “one man and one woman,” allowing states to recognize or reject same-sex marriages as they wish.

The U.S. Supreme Court voided the enforcement of that law in a 2015 case. The 5-4 majority led by now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy found the 14th Amendment guarantees a person’s right to marry as a fundamental liberty, regardless of their sexual orientation.

In doing so, the decision allowed same-sex couples to legal rights heterosexual couples had enjoyed for decades, including being able to direct a partner’s health care decisions and file joint tax returns.

But a new, more conservative, Supreme Court this past summer overturned its longstanding legal precedence set in Roe v. Wade, leaving the right to an abortion up to individual states.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas floated revisiting that 2015 decision, as well as two others allowing access to contraception and one that struck down anti-sodomy laws.

“Given this landscape, it is not unreasonable for same-sex and interracial couples to be fearful that the protections of their marriages are in real jeopardy,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of the bill’s chief sponsors.

Passed by the House earlier this year, a bipartisan group of senators hashed out an amendment to the bill to protect religious groups from being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

“No church, no synagogue, no mosque, no temple, no religious educational institution would have to worry that somehow their tax-exempt status would be in jeopardy,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The procedural vote to essentially avoid a filibuster passed 62-37, with 12 Republicans supporting it.

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch opposed the measure, saying it should be a policy decision up to individual states.

“The federal government has no business attempting to direct our views on this matter,” Risch said in a statement, noting the bill doesn’t carve out exemptions for individuals, schools and adoption agencies.

“I also remain concerned this legislation will undermine individual and religious freedoms under our Constitution as it does not offer protections for those whose beliefs and practices vary from those mandated by this proposed law,” Crapo said in a statement.

The U.S. Senate still needs to give the legislation final approval before it returns to the House for consideration.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!