In a landmark ruling handed down late Tuesday, May 13, a federal judge said Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it relegates select Idaho citizens to a "stigmatized, second-class status."
Attorneys representing four Idaho couples argued to U.S. District Court Judge Candy Dale on May 5 that their rights as citizens were violated by Idaho's ban of same-sex unions, and eight days later Dale handed down a ruling that agreed with the couples.
The Idaho Legislature and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter agreed in February to take $1 million of public money to fight for the state's ban on gay marriage. In 2006, Idaho voters enacted the constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The Idaho couples are represented by two Idaho attorneys and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has successfully argued against similar anti-gay constitutional amendments in Utah and New Mexico.
They tangled with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and attorneys representing Otter and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, since the couples attempted to file for marriage licenses at the Ada County Courthouse.
In a 57-page decision handed down on Tuesday, Dale wrote that current Idaho law denied same-sex couples the "economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love."
Upon receiving the ruling, Otter responded that the decision "is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court. I am firmly committed to upholding the will of the people and defending our Constitution.”
Otter had already filed a request for an immediate stay of the injunction, presuming the state would lose its case.
Dale is expected to rule on the request shortly.
Here is more information about the couples in this landmark case:
Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers of Boise have been a couple for 10 years. Latta is an adjunct professor at Boise State University and is deeply involved in the Boise arts community. Ehlers is a co-owner of a Boise business. Latta has adult children, who have been co-parented, and two grandchildren.
Lori and Sharene Watsen of Boise have been together for four years. Lori Watsen is a licensed clinical social worker and associate field director for Boise State University's School of Social Work. Sharene is a physician assistant. They are parents of an infant.
Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer of Boise have been together for 16 years. Robertson is a teacher of deaf children and Almayer is a certified massage therapist. They are parents of a 4-year-old son.
Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson of Boise have been together for three years. Beierle is a manager of a state historic site and Robertson manages a commercial supply warehouse and is a veteran of the Idaho Army National Guard, serving a tour of duty in Iraq.