Idaho Judge Rules Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

By: Michelle Garcia
5.13.2014

Left: The plaintiffs in the marriage case

A judge in Idaho ruled Tuesday evening that the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale ruled that Idaho's 2006 law, which amended the state constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, violates the U.S. Constitution, according to marriage equality group Freedom to Marry.

Prior to the ruling, Idaho governor Butch Otter filed a preemptive motion to have Judge Dale stay her ruling, in order to allow for appeals in higher courts. The motion said Otter will bring the appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court, the Spokesman-Review reports.  

Nonetheless, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, marked the ruling as another step in the road to full marriage equality across the United States.

"As gay couples and their families begin to share in the joy and security of the freedom to marry, hearts and minds are opening, discrimination's barriers are falling, and we're moving our country to the right side of history," he said. "As the federal appellate courts now take up these marriage cases, America is ready for the freedom to marry."

Dale ruled on a suit brought by four lesbian couples, and argued in court May 5. The couples' attorney, Deborah Ferguson, said the state's ban violates the U.S. Constitution, while Idaho deputy attorney general Scott Zanzig and Otter’s attorney, Thomas Perry, said the ban was necessary to protect children. They also said overturning the ban would violate voters' rights.

Dale's ruling for Latta v. Otter is the 16th consecutive favorable marriage equality ruling in state and federal courts since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States last June, a decision that allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and local attorneys Ferguson and Craig Durham represented the couples. The plaintiffs are Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, and Lori and Sharene Watsen, who are legally married and want the state to recognize their marriages. They are suing along with Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, as well as Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, who want the state to recognize their marriages.

“After living in Idaho for more than two decades, it means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally," Latta said in a statement Tuesday. "We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Idaho an even better place for everyone who lives here. Today’s ruling means that we can finally have the same legal protections as other married couples and the security of knowing that our family is legally secure.”

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