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Obama Administration could play key role in how decision affects Idaho same-sex couples married elsewhere

Here’s the latest from the ACLU on how this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings could affect same-sex couples living in Idaho who were legally married in other states: It depends. For some federal programs, the ACLU, which brought the case that resulted in the federal Defense of Marriage Act being overturned, says the Obama Administration could decide through regulation to extend recognition. For others, including Social Security benefits, any changes would require an act of Congress.

 “Under current law, the federal government typically defers to the states in designating whether a couple’s marriage is valid,” said Monica Hopkins, Idaho ACLU director. “There’s no one rule across all federal programs, as to whether the validity of a marriage is determined by where a couple is living, which is the place of domicile, or where the couple got married, which is the place of celebration. So that’s the question there. … . So right now, I would say same-sex couples that reside in Idaho that were legally married in one of the 13 states or D.C. are in a sort of limbo, while they wait for the administration to implement this decision, hopefully swiftly and smoothly, and apply all relevant statutes.” Said Hopkins, “Much of the uncertainty can be completely corrected by saying it’s the place of celebration.”

She added, “We concur with the Attorney General – this doesn’t change anything about Idaho’s marriage laws. However, DOMA is a different question. … Now the question is up to the Obama Administration.” President Obama issued a statement today saying he’s directed top officials to review all the relevant statutes and implement the decision “swiftly and smoothly.”

Kim Beswick, a high-tech worker from Boise who has two young children with her same-sex partner and has lived in the state for two decades, welcomed the rulings. “Idaho unfortunately isn’t leading the way on this issue,” she said. “We have the constitutional amendment in place that absolutely forbids not only marriage but any of the individual rights of marriage. … I think these rulings show that’s certainly going to be at some point on the wrong side of history.” But she said the DOMA ruling could affect her family on everything from end-of-life decisions to federal taxes. “That has a big impact on us in a pretty far-reaching way.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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