The start of same-sex marriage in uber-conservative Idaho was understated today in Coeur d’Alene.
More than two hours after the Kootenai County Recorder’s office opened, no couples had come in for a marriage license. A crowd of supporters had evaporated and most journalists had left.
Then Jennifer Currie and Kim Malar walked in on their lunch break. The Post Falls couple has been together 12 years and said they wanted to make it official.
“It’s awesome. I’m about to cry,” Currie said when she emerged from the office holding their license. “This has just been something that we’ve wanted to do, but wanted to have it be legal.”
They could have wed across the border in Washington or another state that allows gays and lesbians to marry, but they preferred to wait until it was legal in Idaho.
“We have our life here,” said Malar, adding that they plan to have a small wedding ceremony soon with friends and family.
Being free to marry in Idaho is a validation of their relationship, Malar said.
“We couldn’t get more committed than we are now,” she said. “We built our life together. But we actually have it in writing now.”
All 44 counties began issuing licenses to same-sex couples statewide Wednesday morning by order of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Sandpoint, a lesbian couple was the first to receive a same-sex marriage license from Bonner County at 10:50 a.m., the county recorder said. No marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in Boundary, Benewah or Shoshone counties by early afternoon, officials said.
In Boise, there was a loud countdown and cheer from the crowd as the 10 o’clock hour arrived at the Ada County Courthouse. Dozens of same-sex couples and hundreds of their supporters were gathered to celebrate the occasion.
Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, with 4-year-old son Bridger in tow, were the first to receive a license. Amber and Rachel Beierle, at the next counter, were next. They’re among four Idaho couples who sued successfully to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage; the other two couples already were legally married in other states, and sought recognition of their marriages.
Deborah Ferguson, the women’s attorney, said, “We’re thrilled. The day has come. It’s actually here.”
Both couples immediately headed over to Boise City Hall, where they were married by Acting Mayor Maryanne Jordan. “There’s been enough twists and turns here,” Ferguson said. “They’ve waited a long time. They’re ready.”
Other marriage ceremonies were performed in front of the courthouse, complete with ministers, flowers, cake and hundreds of well-wishers. At the close of one of them, as two men were being married by another minister nearby, Presbyterian minister Marci Glass declared, “By the power vested in me by the state of Idaho, I now pronounce you wife and wife.” The two brides hugged, and the crowd cheered jubilantly.
In the first 20 minutes that marriage licenses could be legally issued to same-sex couples in Ada County, county Clerk Chris Rich estimated that more than a dozen had been issued. “I would say we’ve done at least 12 to 15,” he said.
Things went smoothly, Rich said, with only a minor hiccup: “We had a paper jam, and one machine was low on toner, even though we tested all the machines yesterday,” he said ruefully. But that was quickly fixed.
For now, Ada County’s marriage license forms have been altered to offer applicants two choices: Bride and groom, as before, and “spouse and spouse.” That may differ in other counties, Rich said. He said eventually there may be more options, such as bride and bride, groom and groom, or no specification.
Idaho voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2006, but it was overturned as unconstitutional in May by a federal judge. The state appealed, but its appeals failed.
Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in the hallway outside the Kootenai County Recorder’s office this morning. One of the first to arrive was Juli Stratton, board chair of the Coeur d’Alene chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Stratton said she was there “to recognize love is love” and “support those who are ready and now able to enter into marriage. So it’s all about celebration.”
She married her partner in San Francisco a year ago. Other gay and lesbian couples in Idaho already have traveled outside the state to marry, and some may be hesitant to be among the first to marry in Idaho, Stratton said.
“This is still a discriminatory state,” she said. “Until the LGBT community is protected under the human rights act by adding the words ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ it is not safe for people to come out and celebrate their marriage.”
Coeur d’Alene City Council member Dan Gookin, who also stopped by to show his support Wednesday, said gay couples still face legal discrimination in housing and employment in Idaho.
“Even though we have marriage equality now, there still isn’t anything to protect homosexuals from discrimination,” he said. “It’s not in the civil rights code yet, so that’s something we still have to work on.”
Tracy Springberry, minister of the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said she is available to preside over same-sex weddings in Idaho. She also knows several couples who have gone to Washington to exchange their vows.
“But now their marriages are recognized” in Idaho, she said. “They have all the rights and responsibilities of being married.”
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