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Otter gets last-minute stay to block Idaho gay marriages

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 8, 2014, 8:55 a.m.

Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer with son Bridger, 4, outside the Ada County Courthouse on Wednesday morning, after being turned away for a marriage license (Betsy Russell)
Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer with son Bridger, 4, outside the Ada County Courthouse on Wednesday morning, after being turned away for a marriage license (Betsy Russell)

BOISE – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, at the request of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, issued an emergency stay this morning blocking same-sex marriage from starting in Idaho – just as couples lined up at county clerk’s offices around the state were about to receive their licenses.

“We’ll be back,” said attorney Deborah Ferguson; some of her clients were in tears.

One same-sex couple received a marriage license in Twin Falls before the stay order came through, the Twin Falls Times-News reported. A second was turned away and left dejectedly.

Otter said he was “pleased” with the emergency order from Kennedy, which asked attorneys for the plaintiffs to respond by 5 p.m. Thursday. “I’m pleased that Justice Kennedy has given us the opportunity to make our case in a way that helps avoid the confusion some other states have faced,” Otter said. “We also asked the 9th Circuit for the same relief, but I’m grateful that Justice Kennedy acted so promptly.”

Both Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed emergency motions this morning asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the effect of its ruling yesterday determining Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Those motions weren’t expected to be successful, however, as the 9th Circuit followed up its ruling last night with an order specifically making the ruling effective immediately.

Otter said, “I intend to be faithful to my oath of office and keep working to protect the Idaho Constitution and the mandate of Idaho voters in support of traditional marriage.”

Otter and Wasden argued in their motions that allowing same-sex marriages to start in Idaho would cause the state “irreparable harm.” In his filing to the U.S Supreme Court, Otter’s lawyers wrote, “Each same-sex marriage performed will be an affront to the interests of the State and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels.”

Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, who are among the plaintiffs in Idaho’s case, were first in line at the Ada County Courthouse this morning to get a marriage license when the emergency order came through at 8 a.m.

“We were standing there when he handed the order to our attorney,” Robertson said, wiping away tears. “I don’t understand – I just want my life. I just want to marry the person of my dreams. I feel like a pawn in a game to be honest, and I don’t get it – it’s my life, really. Come on. It’s not going to hurt anyone.”

She and Altmayer, along with 4-year-old son Bridger, commiserated with family and friends gathered on the courthouse steps and wondered what’s next. “It’s just so disappointing,” Altmayer said. “Especially given what the Supreme Court did two days ago,” Robertson said. Said Altmayer, “They reject five states, but put a stay on us.”

Ferguson said it was unclear why Kennedy granted Otter’s emergency stay request. “We’ll be filing our response on or before 5 o’clock tomorrow evening,” she said. “This comes as a surprise.”

Otter’s motion to the 9th Circuit said, “Absent the stay requested by Gov. Otter’s emergency motion, Idaho will experience the same chaos, confusion, conflict and uncertainty seen in Utah and Virginia, which resulted when those district court decisions were not stayed pending appeal.”

“The stay is being sought so that Gov. Otter can seek further review of the panel’s decision,” the motion said, “first by the en banc Court, and if that fails, by the Supreme Court.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected seven appeals from five states seeking to ban same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing gay marriage in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The 9th Circuit’s ruling against bans in both Idaho and Nevada came the next day.


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