Let’s take two pieces of political information and see if there’s a way to mesh them. Warning: This will not be easy.
One is poll results released late last week by Idaho state Representative Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, partly on the subject of attitudes toward gay people and gay-related issues. (We should note here that LeFavour is Idaho’s one openly gay state legislator.) Her conclusion (this was in e-mail and not posted so far on her web site): “I think people have long assumed that a vast majority of Idahoans are anti-gay. Clearly that’s not the case. Most people know someone who is gay, as part of their family, as a friend, or from work or school. That was not true of a majority of Idahoans a decade ago. I think this has helped change attitudes and create greater understanding and respect for gay people all over the state.”
A reasonable interpretation of the numbers. Asked if “Homosexuality should be discouraged by society” the strongly agrees were 29% and somewhat agrees were 15% – 44%, less than half. Of the sample group, 20% (probably less than the percentage in the state overall) were listed as Mormon; of the self-identified Republicans 47% were in the strongly or somewhat categories. (Polling was done by Myers Research; 600 respondents statewide; no margin of error noted.)
So what do we make of the recent request by six Republican legislators for an attorney general’s opinion about a city’s health benefit policy?
That policy is the city of Moscow’s, noted here last week. The policy doesn’t refer directly to gay people but it does extend health insurance coverage (in a form fairly standard for its private insurer, Regence Blue Shield of Idaho) to “domestic partners,” which presumably would include gay couples.
That was enough to set off alarm bells for the six – Senators Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, Michael Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, and Representatives Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, Curtis Bowers, R-Caldwell, and Phil Hart, R-Athol. They pointed out that voters in 2006 passed a constitutional amendment that not only banned gay marriage (the subject of most of the attention) but also “to provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state”.
Resolution of the legal issue here (which comes to whether insurance coverage can only be extended to state-recognized domestic unions – are private corporations subject to this?) isn’t immediately obvious. What clear enough is the impetus behind the legislators’ action: A determination to swiftly quash anything remotely resembling a public acceptance of homosexuality. There was no pause, no hesitation, between the arrival of the issue in the news, and the legislators’ response.
So where do the people of the state come down on this? Did they lie to the pollster, and so quietly approve of six of their legislators doing this? Or not?
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