BOISE – Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions won’t change under the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions issued Wednesday morning.
That’s because the decisions defer to states to regulate marriage, even while striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
“There really isn’t a direct impact on Idaho law. It’s still in effect,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “My job is to defend the constitution and the statutes of the state, and those haven’t changed.”
Idaho voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 by nearly a two-thirds vote, stating that “a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
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.
“We’ll just kind of have to see what happens,” Wasden said. “With the dual sovereign system, their (citizens’) interaction with the federal government is separate and apart from their interaction with the state government.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the DOMA case, said Wednesday afternoon that it believes the Obama administration could extend recognition through some federal programs to same-sex couples who were married in states where their marriages were legal, even if they now live elsewhere. Other federal programs, including Social Security benefits, would require congressional action to change.
“What has to be resolved is how the federal government is going to reconcile recognition amidst a patchwork quilt of marriage laws,” said Monica Hopkins, Idaho ACLU executive director.
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.”
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.”