Friday, October 10, 2014

BREAKING: Same-sex marriages can begin in Idaho Wednesday

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:16 PM

UPDATE: After the Supreme Court lifted its stay on marriages in Idaho, most counties still did not issue marriage licenses because they were waiting for a final order from the 9th Circuit. The state had one more chance Monday to argue for an extension of the stay and failed. The 9th Circuit Court ruled Monday afternoon that same-sex marriages can begin in Idaho as soon as 9 am Wednesday.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted its temporary hold on same-sex marriages in Idaho, according to the AP.  Shortly after, a federal judge struck down North Carolina's ban.

In Ada County, the courthouse clerk is prepared to begin issuing marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples as soon as he gets word from the state's attorney general's office. 

Our earlier story is below. 

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.

"Idaho and Nevada’s marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states," the judges wrote, continuing later, "The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions. When we integrated our schools, education improved. When we opened our juries to women, our democracy became more vital. When we allowed lesbian and gay soldiers to serve openly in uniform, it enhanced unit cohesion. When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all."

The decision comes on the heels of this week's Supreme Court decision not to hear appeals to lower court decisions striking down marriage bans.

This spring, a federal judge struck down Idaho's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages after four same-sex Idaho couples challenged it, but marriages were halted by the 9th Circuit when the state appealed. (We wrote then about the significant work that remains for LGBT rights in Idaho.) The 9th Circuit heard arguments in San Francisco last month, where Idaho's lawyer argued same-sex marriages are harmful to children.

Here's an excerpt from the judges' ruling, which you can read in full here.

Marriage, the Coalition argues, is an “institution directed to certain great social tasks, with many of those involving a man and a woman united in the begetting, rearing, and education of children”; it is being “torn away,” they claim, “from its ancient social purposes and transformed into a government-endorsed celebration of the private desires of two adults (regardless of gender) to unite their lives sexually, emotionally, and socially for as long as those personal desires last.” Defendants struggle, however, to identify any means by which same-sex marriages will undermine these social purposes. They argue vehemently that same-sex marriage will harm existing and especially future opposite-sex couples and their children because the message communicated by the social institution of marriage will be lost.

As one of the Nevada plaintiffs’ experts testified, there is no empirical support for the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would harm—or indeed, affect—opposite-sex marriages or relationships. That expert presented data from Massachusetts, a state which has permitted same-sex marriage since 2004, showing no decrease in marriage rates or increase in divorce rates in the past decade. ... It would seem that allowing couples who want to marry so badly that they have endured years of litigation to win the right to do so would reaffirm the state’s endorsement, without reservation, of spousal and parental commitment. From which aspect of same-sex marriages, then, will opposite-sex couples intuit the destructive message defendants fear? Defendants offer only unpersuasive suggestions.

The judges also called out Nevada for allowing same-sex domestic partnerships and adoption rights while denying marriage: "To allow same-sex couples to adopt children and then to label their families as second-class because the adoptive parents are of the same sex is cruel as well as unconstitutional. Classifying some families, and especially their children, as of lesser value should be repugnant to all those in this nation who profess to believe in 'family values.' In any event, Idaho and Nevada’s asserted preference for opposite-sex parents does not, under heightened scrutiny, come close to justifying unequal treatment on the basis of sexual orientation."

We reached out to the Kootenai County Clerk's Office, which issues marriage licenses, to find out when same-sex couples would be allowed to start getting married in North Idaho. We'll update this post if we hear back.

A spokesman for the Idaho Office of the Attorney General, which defended the ban, says his office believes the court's earlier halt on same-sex marriages remains in place and is awaiting an explicit lift of the stay. In an emailed statement, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says simply, “We are reviewing the decision by the court and assessing all of Idaho’s legal options in this case."

UPDATE: Reuters reports Wednesday morning that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has temporarily blocked same-sex marriages in Idaho. The state of Idaho asked the courts to extend the earlier stay on marriages while it decides whether to appeal the case again and Kennedy says the plaintiffs who sued the state should respond to that request by tomorrow.

Here's the status of same-sex marriage laws in all 50 states, according to the AP.

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About The Author

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...