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Idaho Republican who vowed to protect ‘traditional marriage’ wants to eliminate licenses

Idaho Statesman 1/20/2023 Ryan Suppe, The Idaho Statesman

A Republican state senator who vowed to protect “traditional” marriage plans to propose legislation that would eliminate marriage licenses in Idaho — a GOP tactic in other states to prevent same-sex marriages.

The proposal, which must be introduced by a legislative committee before it becomes a bill and is publicized, would eliminate licenses and instead direct officiants to issue marriage “certificates” following a ceremony between “two qualified people, a man and a woman,” said Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, in a Tuesday social media video.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, told the Idaho Statesman that the proposal appears to codify that “there would only be marriage recognized between a man and a woman.”

Republicans in other states, including Alabama and Oklahoma, moved to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled the states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rubel said she expected a Republican bill this year that would target same-sex marriage, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The 1973 decision that granted federal protection for abortion, like the 2015 case that protected same-sex marriage, hinged on constitutional privacy rights.

“When the Supreme Court stripped away the right to privacy, it really threw all of those rights into question,” Rubel told the Statesman by phone.

Herndon said in his social media video that the change is meant to “deregulate marriages.” The Statesman attempted to reach Herndon for comment.

Herndon wants to protect ‘traditional marriage’

Idaho added a same-sex marriage prohibition to its state constitution after voters approved the amendment in 2006. But a federal court declared the provision unconstitutional in 2014, and local officials in Idaho have issued same-sex marriage licenses since then.

Former Idaho Reps. Christy Zito and Bryan Zollinger, both Republicans, sponsored a similar 2020 bill that would have eliminated marriage licenses. A House committee rejected the bill, partly due to concern that it would draw money from state domestic violence prevention programs, which are funded by marriage license fees. On his website, Herndon says he authored the 2020 bill.

Herndon, a freshman lawmaker, has been outspoken about his efforts to limit same-sex marriage. The North Idaho lawmaker last year defeated incumbent Jim Woodward, a business-friendly, moderate Republican, in the GOP primary election.

Before the primary election, Herndon said in a social media video that he authored changes to the Idaho Republican Party platform meant to protect “traditional marriage.” One of the provisions called on Idaho lawmakers to “prevent expansion of the definition of marriage” by the federal government. The other said the party “recognizes traditional marriage” regardless of a license. Both statements remain in the party platform.

“We want traditional marriage, one man and one woman, we want a legal framework for marriage,” Herndon said in the May video. “But, the state, we just want them out of the licensing business, because we don’t think the state has a role in your marriage.”

Herndon is scheduled to introduce the proposal in the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, which meets at 1:30 p.m. on Monday at the Idaho Capitol building in Boise.

©2023 The Idaho Statesman. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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