Same sex marriage (SSM) in Idaho
2014-MAY: Part 1:
Quotation. SSM overview in the U.S.
The Plaintiffs in Latta v. Otter.
Circuit Court ruling.
Quotation by Honorable Harry Blackmun, former Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:
From his dissenting opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986:
"It is precisely because the issue raised by this case touches the heart of what makes individuals what they are that we should be especially sensitive to the rights of those whose choices upset the majority."
This lawsuit continued the criminalization of same-gender sexual behavior in some states. It was overturned in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which legalized such behavior across the U.S. District Court Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale included the quotation in her ruling. 1
SSM overview in the U.S. as of 2014-MAY-12
The Idaho Marriage Definition Amendment was passed by voters on election day in 2006-NOV. Section 28 of Article III of the Idaho Constitution was amended so that
"... a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized."
The amendment banned same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and any other recognition of the relationships of same-sex couples by the state. The vote was 63% in favor of the ban, and 37% opposed. 4
The tenth anniversary of the first legal same-sex marriages (SSMs) in the United States occurs on 2014-MAY-17. It is celebrated by some and is a source of great discomfort and sadness for others. These first legal SSMs in the U.S. occurred in Massachusetts. By coincidence, it is also the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that started the ending of segregated education in the U.S. -- a process that has not yet completed.
On MAY-13, a District Court judge in one more state -- Idaho -- added their decision on SSM to a long string of 10 rulings made by various U.S. District Courts around the U.S. since 2013-JUN-26. That date was when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and void. That decision made it possible for some legally married same-sex couples to access the 1,138 federal government programs, benefits, protections, etc for themselves and their children -- on an equal basis with legally married opposite-sex couples.
Since that date, court decisions concerning SSMs have all ruled in favor marriage equality! Like the Supreme Court decision in Windsor, they have all based their rulings mainly on the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Currently, there are approximately 70 active lawsuits in District Courts awaiting hearings or rulings.
As of 2014-mid-MAY. the current status of same-sex marriage around the U.S. is:
- Same-sex marriage licenses are currently legal and routinely available in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The states are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state.
- Courts have declared same-sex marriage legal in eight additional states: Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan, Idaho, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Texas. These were rulings by one county court judge in Arkansas, and by 10 federal District Court judges in the remaining states. These rulings have been stayed pending appeal, or are expected to be stayed in the very near future.
- District Court judges have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
- Since 2013-OCT, Oregon has recognized the validity of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
- If all rulings are upheld, and existing stays are lifted, then same-sex marriages would be permitted to be solemnized and/or out of state marriages will be recognized in 28 states and the District of Columbia. This totals 57% of all political jurisdictions in the United States.
That was the situation as of 2014-MAY-13 when a District Court Judge in Idaho ruled in favor of SSM. New developments are happening weekly.
An ancient Chinese curse comes to mind: "May you live in interesting times."
Latta v. Otter: About the Plaintiffs:
Four lesbian couples filed a lawsuit Latta et al. v. Otter et al. in Idaho District Court during 2013-NOV. Two were:
- Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers were married in California after 2008-MAY when the California Supreme Court authorized same-sex marriages, and before election day in November when Proposition 8 temporarily banned future SSMs. However, marriages by couples like Latta and Ehlers were considered still valid. In 2013-JUN-26, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry overturned Prop. 8 and SSMs started again.
The two couples would like Idaho to recognize their marriages. Currently, they are regarded as "legal strangers" -- just roommates -- without the important protections and status that marriage brings for themselves and their children. The law also treats Traci as a legal stranger to her grandchildren. Lori must arrange a new power of attorney twice a year so that she can make medical decisions for her son. 2,3
- Lori and Sharene Watsen married in New York State during 2011. They also want Idaho to recognize their out-of-state marriage.
Cynthia Sewell & Kristin Rodine of The Idaho Statement wrote:
The remaining two couples are:
- Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer are not married and seek to marry in Idaho.
- Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson are also not married and seek to marry in Idaho. 2
After Judge Dale's ruling was released, the principal plaintiff, Susan Latta, issued a news release, saying:
"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. 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 [know] that our family is legally secure."
2014-MAY: About the Defendants:
There are only two:
- C.L. "Butch" Otter, in his official capacity as governor of Idaho, and
- Christopher Rich, in his official capacity as Recorder of Ada County, Idaho.
2014-MAY-13: Circuit Court judge in Idaho issues ruling on SSM:
District Court Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale has declared the state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. This includes both the state's marriage law and Amendment 2 to the state Constitution. The ruling requires the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, register and recognize those marriages solemnized in Idaho, and recognize marriages that have been solemnized out-of-state.
Amendment 2 was passed by an overwhelming vote of the public on election day in 2006-NOV. According to recent polls, if the vote were held today, it would easily pass again. It is a stealth amendment that was advertised as a method of preventing same-sex marriages being legalized by state courts. In reality, it banned same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other recognition of same-sex relationships, leaving same-sex couples without elementary protections for themselves and their children.
As with previous decisions in federal District Courts, Idaho District Court Judge Dale
relied heavily on the ruling written by Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Windsor v. United States. This was the very famous lawsuit that declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and void because it violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. She might have established a new record: in her ruling, she quoted Justice Kennedy 45 times! 1
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- District Court Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale, ruling, 2014-MAY-13. Download PDF file at: http://freedomtomarry.org/
- Cynthia Sewell & Kristin Rodine, "Judge denies Otter's request; same-sex marriages in Idaho can start Friday," Idaho Statesman, 2014-MAY-14, at: http://www.idahostatesman.com/
- "Idaho ban on gay marriage struck down," Politico, 2014-MAY-13, at: http://www.politico.com/
- "Idaho Marriage Definition, HJR 2 (2006)," Ballotpedia, at: http://ballotpedia.org/
Copyright © 2014 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2014-MAY-15
Latest update: 2014-NOV-17
Author: B.A. Robinson