A federal judge in Idaho on Tuesday struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“Idaho’s marriage laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so,” wrote U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale. “These laws do not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham last November filed a lawsuit on behalf of four lesbian couples who tried to obtain marriage licenses in Ada County or sought recognition of their marriages that were legally performed in California and New York.
Dale on May 5 heard oral arguments in the case.
Idaho voters in 2006 approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage between a man and a woman and effectively bans the recognition of gay nuptials legally performed in other jurisdictions.
“Idaho’s marriage laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so,” wrote Dale. “These laws do not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny.”
Ferguson applauded Dale’s ruling.
“Today’s decision affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people,” she said. “As the court recognized, these families are part of Idaho’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state.”
Dale’s ruling is slated to take effect on Friday, pending an appeal that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said he intends to file.
“In 2006, the people of Idaho exercised their fundamental right, reaffirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” said the governor in a statement as the Associated Press reported. “Today’s decision, while disappointing, 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.”
Neighboring Washington is among the 18 states and D.C. that allow gays and lesbians to marry.
A referendum that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Oregon will likely take place in November.
Dale issued her decision hours after a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.
A three-judge panel with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last month heard oral arguments in two lawsuits that challenge state marriage amendments in Utah and Oklahoma. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in February appealed a ruling that struck down his state’s same-sex marriage ban to a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
Gays and lesbians on May 10 began to marry in Arkansas after a circuit judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has said he will appeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are currently the only three states in which gays and lesbians have not filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
A lesbian couple from Rapid City, S.D., who legally married in Minnesota late last month plan to file a lawsuit against South Dakota’s marriage amendment in the coming weeks.