On Wednesday afternoon, I ran into Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, in the hall and asked him about a college student buying Shepherd’s former campaign website domain and turning it into a resource site for LGBT youth. (In an interview with Motherboard’s Jason Koebler, the student, Dylan Hailey, said the move was in response to Shepherd’s House Joint Memorial 4, which encourages Congress to impeach federal judges who support same sex marriage.)
Shepherd said he’d heard about Hailey’s actions, but hadn’t yet seen the new website. He was bemused, though, and brought me into his office so I could listen to an angry voice mail about the joint memorial.
“Why don’t you butt out… and worry about who you’re sleeping with?” the caller said before insulting Shepherd and his wife.
I asked Shepherd if he was surprised at the vitriol. “I know we have a disagreement out there,” he said, adding opponents of his memorial within the Legislature have been respectful to him.
He then tried to explain his position using historical context.
“Slave owners were very good Christians and good people,” he said, adding he was against slavery. “I totally disagree with that.” This fight, Shepherd told me, is an example of good people who have the wrong idea about moral convictions.
I asked Shepherd to clarify, and he reiterated the connection he saw.
“They (slave owners) weren’t terrible rotten horrible people,” he said — just people who made terrible decisions. “And that’s how I see gay people.”
(Update, 4:05 pm: This isn’t the first time Shepherd has used the slavery analogy. According to Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review, in his floor debate for House Joint Memorial 4, Shepherd said this: “Their Christian moral beliefs were that blacks were inferior… They thought they were good Christians, good moral people, and I’m sure most of them were. But it just proves that our interpretation of Christian morals can be very far and wide … so I have no disrespect for anyone that sees it different than I do.”)
He also said that though this has been hard on him and his family, it’s important to do this to send a message to the Supreme Court, as he doesn’t want to see this progress into a civil war.
I asked if he thought that was a possibility.
“It’s possible,” Shepherd said, adding he doesn’t think it’s likely, and he doesn’t want a war.
Why the focus on marriage? It’s about “saving society from moral pitfalls,” he said, adding he’s concerned about his 40 grandchildren.
“I gotta hang in there,” he said.
As far as the website goes, no word on if Shepherd will try to get the domain back by making a donation to an LGBT group, like Hailey asked.