Same-sex marriages come to Idaho.
Part 1 of 6: Impact of marriage equality in Idaho.
Legalization of gay marriage and the benefits and
conflicts this caused to some residents in Idaho.
The term "LGBT" is a widely used acronym for the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
Impact of marriage equality on a few businesses in Idaho:
On 2014-OCT-13, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state of Idaho has the authority to define which couples many marry within the state. However, they also found that Idaho's ban on gay marriage violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These are the clauses that require the federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally. Thus, the gay marriage ban was declared unconstitutional and unenforceable. Same-sex couples must be be able to marry in Idaho.
On OCT-15, the court ruling became effective, and Idaho became the 30th political jurisdiction in the U.S. to attain marriage equality. Idaho joined the District of Columbia and 28 other states who had previously permitted gay marriages.
About eight months later, on 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v.Hodges. It legalized marriage across the entire country. Within a few weeks, only the Territory of American Samoa was still refusing to marry same-sex couples. Their ban only affected the approximately 6,000 gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who lived in the territory. That is a relatively small number compared to the approximately 30 million lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the rest of the United States. Licenses were also being refused in a small and rapidly vanishing number of counties in the U.S. mainland. More details.
For most Idahoans, the transition to marriage equality in 2014 did not present much of a problem.
- County clerks who issue marriage licenses had to figure out new headings on the license application form to replace "bride" and "groom." They also had to accommodate a brief surge in applicants as same-sex couples -- some of whom had been in a committed relationship for decades -- were able to apply for marriage licenses and have their marriages solemnized just like any other loving, committed couple.
Some people benefited:
- Businesses in the "wedding industry" such as florists, bakers of wedding cakes, renters of wedding venues, etc. also had a sudden surge in the number of requests for their goods and services.
- Same-sex couples who married, and their children, suddenly had access to hundreds of benefits and protections from the state of Idaho that had been previously restricted as a special privilege only for families led by married opposite-sex couples. They also had access for the first time to 1,138 federal government marriage programs, income tax provisions, and other benefits.
- Marriage equality brought a major change to the lives of LGBT youths. They could now look forward to falling in love and marrying someone of the same sex in the future, and perhaps creating a family through adoption, assisted reproduction procedures, and/or surrogacy.
As Wisconsin State Senator Drew Perkins, (R) said during 2014-OCT when his state also attained marriage equality:
"The difference will be that some people who previously were not able to get married will get married. Life will go on, the sun will come up and the world will keep doing what the world does." 1
The vast majority of Idaho adults -- on the order of 90% -- are heterosexual. Same-sex marriage does not impact them personally because they don't have the slightest interest in marrying a person of the same gender. However, some of them were still distressed by the arrival of marriage equality:
- Many trusted the accuracy of some conservative religious news sources that spread the fear that churches would soon be forced to solemnize gay marriages, against the wishes of their clergy, congregation, and denomination. This is invalid because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a "wall of separation" exists between government and religion. For centuries, ministers, pastors, and priests have been refusing to marry interracial couples, and other couples on the basis of the couples' race, religious denomination, religion, age, maturity level, previous divorce status, etc. Clergy across the U.S. are under no legal obligation to marry any couple that they don't feel reluctant to marry.
- Some anti-LGBT groups spread the belief that the LGBT community's goal was to destroy marriage. However, the main effect of marriage equality is to increase the number of loving, committed couples who are married, many of which are raising families. Also, data for same-sex marriage in the Netherlands -- during the first decade (2001 to 2011) that it has been available there -- shows that the divorce rate of same-sex couples was 7.2% while the rate for opposite-sex couples was 42.5%. It appears that legalizing gay marriage increases the stability of the institution of marriage.
This was not the first time that people in Idaho had to adapt to a redefinition of marriage. Back in 1959, the state repealed its 1864 anti-miscegenation law. That law had been in effect for almost a century, prohibiting White persons from marrying Blacks, Native Americans, or Asians. While the law was in effect, many conservative faith groups taught that God set up the Earth with humans of different races and placed them in separate areas of the world. They taught that God intended that the races keep themselves separate from each other and to not intermarry. At the time, only about 4% of the U.S. adult population approved of interracial marriage. Also about half favored criminal punishments for interracial couples who did marry. By mid-2013 approval of such marriages has reached 87%. 2
Conflicts among personal understanding of the Bible, the Christian version of the Golden rule, and state/local human rights legislation:
There are many businesses in the state that provide goods and/or services to the "wedding industry." They include florists, renters of wedding and reception venus, wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, wedding dress suppliers, etc. Based on the experience in the states that have previously attained marriage equality, one can expect that the owners of one or two businesses in Idaho would have a problem with the state's legalization of gay marriage. These are typically for-profit businesses which are owned by conservative Protestants. Some owners will feel that meeting the requests of their lesbian, gay and bisexual potential customers who plan to marry a person of the same sex would violate the owner's personal religious beliefs.
This small number of business owners are confronted with a three-way conflict that is not easily resolved:
- 1. Their interpretation of certain "clobber passages" in the Bible leads them to believe that God hates same-gender sexual behavior. Many believe that sexually active gays and lesbians will automatically spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell after they die. Some business owners feel that they cannot be associated with a same-sex wedding in any way. (These biblical interpretations are generally not shared by more liberal or progressive Christians, Jews, secularists, etc. who generally view the Bible as being silent on both loving, committed same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage)
There is a rapidly strengthening movement among religiously conservatives leaders and business proprietors who consider gay marriage as a threat towards their personal religious freedom and liberty.
The term "religious freedom" once referred solely to one's freedom of personal religious belief and speech, to assemble with like-minded believers, to freely proselytize unbelievers, etc. However, the meaning of the term has been changing rapidly in recent years. Now it frequently means the freedom to use one's religious beliefs to denigrate, belittle, oppress and/or discriminate against others. Whenever this religious freedom to discriminate is restricted in any way, many religious conservatives regard it very seriously.
- 2. The Bible also contains references to the "Golden Rule," whose formal name is the Ethic of Reciprocity. These passages define how humans are expected to behave towards each other. Jesus is recorded in two Gospels as having discussed this rule:
- "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
- "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.
Differently worded Ethics of Reciprocity are also found in all of the other major world religions and many secular systems of morality, like secular humanism.
- 3. Human rights legislation can cause a third conflict. These are state statutes and/or local ordinances that prohibit public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race, skin color, religion, gender, and national origin. Many states add sexual orientation and gender identity as additional protected classes. Idaho does not include these two classes in their laws, 3 However, the city of Coeur d' Alene, ID has included them in its human rights ordinances since 2013-JUN. The city has stiff fines and even jail sentences available to public accommodations that violate their human rights ordinance.
A public accommodation is defined in federal law as:
"... entities, both public and private, that are used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments, as well as educational institutions, recreation facilities and service centers. Private clubs and religious institutions are exempt." 4
[Emphasis not in the original]
Definitions used in state statutes and local ordinances are similar.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Trevor Graff, "Wyoming same-sex marriage ruling concerns legislators," Casper Star Tribune, 2014-OCT-17 at: http://trib.com/
- Frank Newport, "In U.S., 87% Approve of Black-White Marriage, vs. 4% in 1958," Gallup, 2013-JUL, at: http://www.gallup.com/
- Idaho Statutes: Title 67. Chapter 59. Commission on Human Rights, Idaho Legislature, at: http://legislature.idaho.gov/
- "Public accommodations," Wikipedia, as on 2014-AUG-29, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Copyright © 2014 & 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-OCT-23
Latest update: 2015-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson