Idaho Lawmakers Call On Congress To Impeach Judges For Marriage Equality Rulings

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield

The Idaho statehouse in Boise.

Forty-four of Idaho’s Republican lawmakers oppose same-sex marriage so much that they are out for blood — or at least jobs. The Idaho House voted 44-25 Friday on a non-binding memorial (resolution) urging Congress to impeach any judge that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. All 14 Democrats opposed the memorial.

The text of the measure references the Sixth Circuit’s opinion upholding bans on same-sex marriage, ignoring the countless other rulings in favor of marriage equality. Quoting from the decision it specifically references the “biological reality couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes,” which justifies states only recognizing the latter’s marriages.

The memorial resolves “that a judge of the United States judiciary who disregards his oath of office to uphold the Constitution should be impeached by Congress,” implying that any ruling in support of same-sex marriage is a distortion of the Constitution.

Rep. Paul Shepherd (R), its sponsor, proclaimed, “We’ve gotta take a stand… You can’t say an immoral behavior according to God’s word, what we’ve all been taught since the beginning, is something that’s just, and that’s really kind what this is all about. We’d better uphold Christian morals. As an example, how about fornication, adultery, and other issues.” Other supporters claimed that the rulings trample on states’ rights.

Rep. John McCrostie (D), the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, told the House, “Of all the bills that I’ve voted on in the last weeks, HJM causes me the most hurt.” House Minority Leader John Rusche (D) said that the memorial demonstrates a “fundamental error” in the House’s understanding of the role of the nation’s judiciary.

Over the course of U.S. history, fifteen federal judges have ever been impeached by the House, and only eight of those were convicted by the Senate. Like the President and Vice President, judges are considered “civil officers” governed by the Constitution’s procedures for impeachment, which allow for removal from office for conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The two most recent impeachments were in 2009 and 2010. Samuel Kent, a George H.W. Bush appointee in the Southern District of Texas, resigned in 2009 after being charged with sexual assault, obstructing and impeding an official proceeding, and making false and misleading statements. In 2010, Clinton appointee Thomas Porteous, a district judge in Louisiana, was convicted by the Senate for accepting bribes and making false statements under penalty of perjury.

Only one federal judge, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, was ever impeached because of how he decided cases. The House alleged that political bias had led Chase to treat defendants and their counsel unfairly, but the Senate acquitted him on March 1, 1805, setting the precedent that judges not be impeached for judicial performance.