Idaho plans to spend $1 million to defend gay marriage ban

Idaho plans to spend $1 million to defend gay marriage ban
Gay pride supporters gather at the Statehouse in downtown Boise for the annual Boise Gay Pride Rally. Photo by JERRY MANTER - KBOI2.com web producer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has approved spending $1 million to defend the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports in a story on Thursday that the committee endorsed a request by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to transfer the money from the general fund to the Constitutional Defense Fund in anticipation of a legal fight.

Idaho law recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman, and a 2006 voter-enacted constitutional amendment bans same-sex marriages.

Four couples in November filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho's same-sex-marriage ban, arguing that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection and due process guarantees.

Otter has argued in legal filings that states, not the federal government, have the right to define marriage. He contends that Idaho's laws banning same-sex marriage are vital to the state's goal of creating "stable, husband-wife unions for the benefit of their children."

Federal judges have voided all or part of voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Appeals are pending. On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down Texas' ban on gay marriage but postponed action pending appeals in separate courts.

Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary, told the newspaper on Wednesday the Constitutional Defense Fund was created in 1995 to defend the state and its constitution. Some legal fights so far, he said, have included such things as conflicts with the Endangered Species Act and parental consent for abortions.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, voted against allocating the money to defend the ban.

"I wasn't interested in spending money on supporting a bad decision," Ringo said. "It won't hold up constitutionally."

She said she'd rather see the $1 million go toward raising salaries for state employees and teachers.

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Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News