New York Times reporter Kirk Johnson, hypersensitive to conservative defeat and retreat in the Western states, using an upcoming Supreme Court case as an excuse to lead more cheers for gay rights in "deeply conservative" Idaho in Wednesday's "Gay Couples Are Navigating A New Geography of Marriage."
He sympathetically profiled a couple living in Idaho, a state they consider backward: "For them, the battle for rights and recognition is to be waged here at home, in a deeply conservative state where same-sex marriage remains, for now, an unlikely dream."
The border with Washington State is just two miles from the home that Henry D. Johnston and his partner, Alex Irwin, own here in western Idaho, but for a gay couple it might as well be a thousand. Over there, just a brisk morning’s walk away, same-sex marriage was approved by a majority of statewide voters last fall; over here, the Idaho Constitution, through an amendment passed by voters in 2006, says that even a civil union granted elsewhere has no validity.
“Set your clock back,” Mr. Johnston said of his daily commute home from a job in Pullman, Wash.
The nation’s patchwork geography of same-sex marriage laws was not much of an issue when just a few states allowed it. But now nine states and the District of Columbia allow such unions, with Maine, Maryland and Washington voting to join the list last fall. And the Supreme Court could decide this summer whether equal marriage protections are a right under the Constitution.
Mr. Johnston and Mr. Irwin, both proudly gay and proudly Idahoan, said they had thought about taking a Sunday drive to get married and then dismissed the idea out of hand. Marrying across the border and returning home to a place where none of it had legal meaning, they said, or picking up and moving to Washington to obtain marriage protections would represent equal measures of surrender and defeat. For them, the battle for rights and recognition is to be waged here at home, in a deeply conservative state where same-sex marriage remains, for now, an unlikely dream.
Hardly anyone imagines that Idaho and conservative places like it -- voters in 30 states have banned same-sex marriage by statute or constitutional amendment -- are likely to be moved anytime soon to a full embrace of gay life. The portrait, or caricature, of the American West in films like “Brokeback Mountain” has not entirely faded.
The U.S. is full of "deeply conservative" states, according to the Times (but no "deeply liberal" ones).
Ending on a silly note, Johnson thought it a shame that Henry Johnston's two-hour gay Broadway extravaganza "message" on community radio was limited by the station's small signal.
But Mr. Johnston’s message was severely limited in its reach by KRFP radio’s tiny 100-watt signal. However fervently expressed in words and music, the show can barely be heard beyond downtown.