Judge Promises Swift Ruling on Idaho Marriage Ban
After hearing arguments for and against Idaho's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in a federal courtroom today in Boise, U.S. Magistrate Candy W. Dale promised to deliver a ruling "in the relatively near future," reports the Associated Press.
The federal judge declined to offer a more specific timeline for her decision but did tell attorneys for the state and those representing the four lesbian couples who filed suit that the "emotional case raised lots of questions," according to the AP's report. The magistrate is expected to issue a summary judgment, meaning the case will not go to a full trial, as both sides agree there are no material facts in dispute.
The case, known as Latta v. Otter, was filed in November by four same-sex couples, all of whom are women from Boise, arguing that the state's 2006 voter-approved prohibition on marriage equality and the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states violates the couples' rights to equal protection and due process as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs are represented by private attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham as well as the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
In court today, lawyers for the plaintiffs asked the court to strike down the state's antigay marriage law, as 10 other federal courts have done since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in U.S. v. Windsor last summer.
"Ten out of 10 federal district courts which have considered challenges to their states' same sex marriage bans have found them to be unconstitutional, and likewise we are here to ask this court to do the same," Ferguson told the court today, according to the AP.
The lawsuit names as defendants Idaho governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Ada County clerk Chris Rich, who denied the four couples marriage licenses when they each went to request such recognition in November. Attorneys for the state argued that Idaho's existing marriage law actually protects children, according to the Spokesman-Review.
"Idaho has sufficiently good reasons for maintaining the man-woman marriage institution," Thomas Perry, attorney for Governor Otter, reportedly told the court. "When you look at benefits, what more compelling interest does the state of Idaho have than securing an ideal child-rearing environment for future generations?"
Three of the plaintiff couples have children, who cannot access the same legal protections available to children with married opposite-sex parents because the state of Idaho considers the children's parents to be legal strangers — despite the fact the couples have been together for anywhere from three to 16 years, according to the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho.
"Our clients have built lives and homes together, raised children and cared for grandchildren, and contributed to their communities and their country," plaintiff attorney Ferguson said in a press release in February. "They are simply asking that the state treat them as it would treat any other family."
Throughout the U.S., there are 71 cases seeking the freedom to marry or recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, representing 31 states and territories, according to advocacy organization Freedom to Marry. Only South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana have yet to see a state or federal suit filed against exclusionary marriage policies. A lesbian couple from Rapid City, S.D., announced plans last month to file a federal class-action lawsuit requiring the state to recognize and perform same-sex marriages, after the couple, together for more than 30 years, wed in late April by traveling to neighboring marriage equality state Minnesota.