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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: DOMA

How the rulings impact Idaho…

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the impact in Idaho of this morning’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage; Idaho’s sweeping ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions won’t change. However, same-sex couples living in Idaho who were married in other states may qualify for some recognition in federal programs or benefits, depending on how the Obama Administration and Congress react to the rulings.

Meanwhile, supporters of this morning’s rulings have scheduled a rally on the state Capitol steps at 4:30.

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.”

One way some Idahoans could be impacted…

Idaho ACLU Executive Director Monica Hopkins says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, leaves open one question that could affect Idaho: What about same-sex couples who legally married in another state, but now reside in Idaho? Would they be eligible for federal benefits like family medical leave and Social Security survivor benefits?

“There are 1,100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference,” said Hopkins, whose organization brought the DOMA case on behalf of Edie Windsor, an elderly New York resident who was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after her same-sex spouse passed away, though the two had been legally married in Canada and the state of New York recognized the Canadian marriage.  Windsor wouldn’t have owed any estate tax if she’d been married to a man.

“Now what we have to do is kind of untangle what this DOMA decision means,” Hopkins said, “because it has federal applications, but what does it mean for Idahoans who were legally married in a state that legally recognizes those marriages, but reside in Idaho?” Hopkins said she’ll be participating in a conference call mid-day today with the ACLU’s national attorneys to address that and other questions about the decisions.

David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University and a constitutional scholar, said, “I think the opinion is unclear on the issue of whether same-sex couples married in another state who move to Idaho are going to be entitled to some federal benefits. I think there’s room in the opinion to draw the conclusion that they will be entitled to some benefits, including (federal) tax filings, but it’s not immediately clear.”

Adler said, “The reasoning in the opinion employed by Justice Kennedy is going to have national implications for the discussion and debate on gay rights and same-sex marriage as it goes forward in this country.” He added, “While the immediate opinion does uphold the right of states to determine the status of marriage, the reasoning and the language of that opinion will be used to promote same-sex marriage across the country.”

Wasden: Idaho’s laws haven’t changed

Here’s what Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had to say this morning on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage: “There really isn’t a direct impact on Idaho law. It’s still in effect. … so there really isn’t a lot of change there.”

He noted that his office is still analyzing the decisions. “We’re trying to react to what we’ve been able to review and read very rapidly,” Wasden said. But overall, he said, “My job is to defend the Constitution and the statutes of the state, and those haven’t changed.”

Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage rulings don’t alter Idaho’s ban

I am still awaiting word from the experts, but it appears that today’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage won’t change anything in Idaho. That’s because the decisions defer to states to regulate marriage, even while striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The result is that couples legally married in the 12 states where same-sex marriage is permitted are eligible for federal benefits; a second decision declined to take up an appeal of a California appellate court ruling over that state’s Proposition 8. But Idaho has a sweeping constitutional provision banning not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.

In 2006, Idaho voters approved HJR 2, an amendment to the state Constitution, with 63.35 percent of voters in favor and 36.65 percent against. The ballot measure asked, “Shall Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 28, to provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state?” Once it passed, this section was added to Idaho’s Constitution:

“Section 28. Marriage. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

The official statement of effect of adoption of the ballot measure said this: “If adopted, the proposed amendment would add language to the Constitution of the State of Idaho to provide that a marriage is only between a man and a woman. The language prohibits recognition by the state of Idaho and its political subdivisions of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage. The language further prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from granting any or all of the legal benefits of marriage to civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage.”

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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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