In another move toward marriage equality and legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states in the U.S., a judge in Idaho has ruled that the current ban in the state is unconstitutional. On Tuesday, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale proclaimed that the law denied LGBTQ individuals a “fundamental” right to be married.
The ruling came in the case of four same-sex couples who challenged the laws in the state of Idaho. The ban was initially approved and added to the constitution of the state in 2006. In her ruling Judge Dale claimed that the plaintiffs are made to suffer “because of who they are and whom they love.” She added that Idaho must provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning this Friday at 9 a.m.
The governor of Idaho, C.L. “Butch” Otter, almost immediately released a statement of his own, claiming that he would do whatever he could to appeal the ruling, including the possibility of bringing it to the Supreme Court. “I am firmly committed to upholding the will of the people and defending our Constitution,” Otter’s statement partially read. Although there have been people who are highly opposed to the same-sex marriage rulings, there have been similar cases of bans being struck down in Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, and Utah. Late last week, Arkansas also had a similar ban struck down. Last week 21 gay and lesbian couples in that state helped to overturn a voter-approved measure to keep marriage equality from moving forward. The first same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Arkansas on May 10. As of now, 17 states including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia allow these marriages. America has moved forward, as 10 years ago no state allowed same-sex marriage.
The four couples filed their lawsuit in November 2013. The lawsuit named the governor of the state and Chris Rich, the Clerk for Ada County. One of the couples, Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, married in California in 2008. The other, Lori and Sharene Watson, married in New York in 2011. Both couples have children. Because Idaho does not recognize their unions from different states, Lori Watson must obtain a new power of attorney every six months so that she can have legal authority over the medical treatment of the son she shares with Sharene. Latta and Ehlers have been a committed couple for many years but in the eyes of the law Ehlers is seen as a “legal stranger” to the grandchildren she shares with Latta.
In a statement the attorney for Ehlers and Latta, Sharon Ferguson, called the ruling a victory “not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for everyone who cares about freedom and fairness.” She also expressed that as same-sex marriage and marriage equality moves forward in Idaho she hopes the overturning of the ban helps others recognize that families from all marriages are part of the population of Idaho, and that they deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else.
By Jonathan Brown