It was destined to come up.
During a Thursday afternoon gubernatorial debate at the City Club of Idaho Falls, Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff were quizzed on the hottest topic in the state: Otter's repeated challenge to a federal court ruling that Idaho's ban on same-sex unions was unconstitutional.
"I'm a constitutionalist," Otter told Thursday afternoon's gathering, which was beamed to a City Club of Boise gathering at Owyhee Place in downtown Boise. "When I held my hand up [being sworn in as governor], I promised to defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Idaho. I took an oath to defend them."
Otter quickly pointed to the 2006 vote where 63 percent of Idaho voters agreed to amend the Idaho Constitution to define "a marriage between a man and a woman (to be) the only domestic legal union" in the state.
But in May of this year, a U.S. Magistrate Judge struck down that amendment as unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling this week.
Otter pushed back against what he called Idaho's image of being anti-gay.
"Idaho is pro-traditional marriage," said Otter.
Balukoff quickly shot back:
"Discrimination is discrimination, and it's also wrong," said the Democratic candidate.
Otter said the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to rule on Idaho's debate, but he dropped a big hint when he added:
"Perhaps, God willing, we'll be there (before the U.S. Supreme Court) within a week," said Otter.
Balukoff and Otter also widened their differences on the debate over Add the Words, the effort to add the words "gender indentty" and "sexual orientation" to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
"The governor and the Idaho legislature represent ALL the people of Idaho," said Balukoff. "To stonewall this issue for eight years is not acceptable. We should grant a legislative hearing and strengthen the human rights act to add the four words."
Otter said he had met with Add the Words organizers on two occasions during the 2014 legislative session and had expected a legislative hearing to surface.
"That is, until their antics started up," said Otter, referring to the multiple arrests of Add the Words advocates at the Statehouse. "I can understand the angst of the legislature and their reluctance to take up the issue."
Otter added that he expected a hearing on the matter to surface during the 2015 session.
"I'm glad to hear that," said Balukoff.