Idaho Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge

Idaho became the 23rd state where gay marriage was deemed lawful when a federal judge there threw out a ban on same-sex unions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale in Boise said broad authority to regulate “matters of state concern” doesn’t give Idaho the power to violate individual constitutional rights.

“Idaho’s marriage laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so,” she wrote in yesterday’s ruling. “These laws do not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny.”

The ruling, just four days after an Arkansas judge declared that state’s bar to same-sex marriage invalid, is the 12th consecutive victory for proponents of gay weddings since September in state and federal courts.

A wave of litigation challenging state same-sex marriage bans was unleashed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down a measure that limited federal recognition to marriages between a man and a woman. Rulings that have struck down bans in several states have been put on hold while appeals are pursued.

Virginia Ban

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, yesterday heard arguments over whether to revive that state’s ban, which was struck down in February. The Virginia case is the third to reach a federal appeals court since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. One or more of those cases may return the issue to the Supreme Court, which stopped short of declaring a right to gay marriage.

Deborah Ferguson, a lawyer representing plaintiff Susan Latta, didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours yesterday to a phone call seeking comment on the Idaho ruling.

“In 2006, the people of Idaho exercised their fundamental right, reaffirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said in an e-mailed statement.

The “decision, while disappointing, is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Otter said. “I am firmly committed to upholding the will of the people and defending our constitution.”

Dale said the the state must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting at 9 a.m. on May 16.

“All across the country hurtful laws like these are becoming a thing of the past,” Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in an e-mailed statement. “The courts are correctly ruling that these laws serve no purpose other than to deny our loved ones, friends, and neighbors the same security and dignity as any other family.”

The latest challenge was filed May 12 in a lawsuit against Alaska's gay-marriage ban in Anchorage federal court.

The case is Latta v. Otter, 13-cv-00482, U.S. District Court, District of Idaho (Boise).

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