Appeals court puts Idaho gay weddings on hold

Idaho residents planning to gather at courthouses across the state to celebrate same-sex marriages saw their plans put on hold Thursday by a federal appeals court.

Idaho’s gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled it unconstitutional. Dale said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting this morning, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a temporary stay to prevent same-sex marriages while the court determines if a longer delay is needed.

Of the four lesbian couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, two had hoped to get marriage licenses first thing this morning; the other two were looking forward to having their legal marriages from other states recognized in Idaho.

“As hard and as heart-wrenching as this ‘temporary stay’ is for all those people who were planning to finally get married tomorrow, this may be the best thing that the court could have done,” Sue Latta, the lead plaintiff in the case, told The Spokesman-Review. “If they had had a knee-jerk reaction, we probably would have gotten a ‘stay pending appeal,’ which will take many months, but they didn’t do that. They are going to take a hard look at all the new case law that has been generated … and whether it seems like the state will ultimately be successful, and I believe that they are going to deny the stay.”

Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had asked the court to place Dale’s ruling on hold while they appeal.

Latta and wife Traci Ehlers, of Boise, have been together for 10 years, and were legally married in California in 2008.

“We are going to win because all we are asking for is to be treated like everyone else, and that is not an unreasonable thing to ask for,” Latta said.

Otter welcomed the temporary stay Thursday, saying it will help avoid “chaos and uncertainty.”

“Meanwhile, I am proceeding with an aggressive challenge in the appellate court,” Otter said in a statement. “I’m hopeful for a better outcome, but in any event I am committed to defending our Constitution and the will of Idaho voters.”

Idaho voters approved a far-reaching constitutional amendment in 2006, banning gay marriage, civil unions or any form of recognition for same-sex partnerships.

Otter brought in an additional attorney for the appeal, Monte N. Stewart, the founding president of the Utah-based Marriage Law Foundation and former U.S. attorney for Nevada.

Stewart now is a Boise attorney and has worked to defend bans on same-sex marriage in at least eight states, including Utah, where he was co-chairman of the group that campaigned for the ballot measure imposing Utah’s now-challenged constitutional ban. Several of his writings were cited in Otter’s earlier arguments in the Idaho case.

Idaho’s county clerks participated in an online training session Thursday afternoon to go over procedures to comply with the decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Just before the session started, the news of the 9th Circuit delay arrived.

“If the injunction goes into effect, the counties are ready to perform their duty,” said Dan Chadwick, executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties.

North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship minister Tracy Springberry had planned to be at the Kootenai County Courthouse this morning to perform same-sex marriages for free for anyone who wanted them, and was disappointed to hear of the delay. “I guess we won’t do that,” she said with a sigh.

Springberry said Unitarian Universalists have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies since the ’70s. “We really believe, in my tradition, that people who are in committed, loving relationships need to have those recognized by their communities and their societies and have legal protections, and that everyone should be treated equally and respectfully,” she said. “For me, it’s a very important religious issue.”

Springberry said she’d put the word out that she’d be at the courthouse, following the lead of other Unitarian Universalist ministers in other states when their states legalized same-sex marriage.

“I’m sad,” she said. “But I kind of feel like this is sort of the way this goes. It’ll be a bumpy ride. I think it’ll probably pass eventually.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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