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Idaho gay marriage stayed in federal court

A federal appeals court has stayed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Idaho from taking effect, but agreed to speed up its decision-making on the matter.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s motion for a stay – putting the change on hold while the case is appealed.

But the panel also granted a request from the four couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriages to expedite the case. That means the briefings will be submitted over the summer, with no extensions, and the 9th Circuit will hear arguments in early September in San Francisco.

One member of the 9th Circuit panel wrote that it’s “difficult to see” how the Idaho law banning same-sex marriages could survive on appeal.

Lori Watsen, who with her wife, Sharene, was among the couples bringing the case, said “While Sharene and I are disappointed that the state won’t have to respect our marriage right away, we’re happy that the case is being fast-tracked. We look forward to the day our home state treats our marriage equally and we have the same legal protections as other married couples in Idaho.” 

Wasden said he was pleased with the stay.

“I think it’s critical to take an orderly approach to this case and avoid the confusion that has occurred in other states,” he said. “Now I can focus fully on my responsibility and obligation of defending the choice Idaho voters made to define marriage eight years ago.”

Idaho voters passed the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2006; it’s among the nation’s farthest-reaching, also banning civil unions, domestic partnerships or any type of governmental recognition for same-sex unions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled Idaho’s ban unconstitutional on May 13, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.

Nineteen states, including Washington, now permit same-sex marriage, after a court overturned Oregon’s ban on Monday and Pennsylvania’s ban was struck down on Tuesday. In both states, marriage licenses began being issued to same-sex couples immediately.

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