NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Idaho’s ban on marriage equality struck down as unconstitutional by federal judge

Mar­riage equal­i­ty appears well on its way to becom­ing the law of the land through­out our entire region with the joy­ous news tonight that the chief U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge for the Dis­trict of Ida­ho, Can­dy W. Dale, has struck down Ida­ho’s ban on mar­riage between LGBT cou­ples as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.

“Idaho’s mar­riage laws with­hold from them a pro­found and per­son­al choice, one that most can take for grant­ed,” Judge Dale wrote in her deci­sion.

She added, “By doing so, Idaho’s mar­riage laws deny same-sex cou­ples the eco­nom­ic, prac­ti­cal, emo­tion­al, and spir­i­tu­al ben­e­fits of mar­riage, rel­e­gat­ing each cou­ple to a stig­ma­tized, sec­ond-class sta­tus. Plain­tiffs suf­fer these injuries not because they are unqual­i­fied to mar­ry, start a fam­i­ly, or grow old togeth­er, but because of who they are and whom they love.”

Ida­ho’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor, Butch Otter, has already vowed to appeal the deci­sion, all the way to the Unit­ed States Supreme Court if nec­es­sary. How­ev­er, unless Otter wins a stay by 9 AM this Fri­day morn­ing, LGBT cou­ples will be able to wed in Ida­ho.

Evan Wolf­son of Free­dom to Mar­ry enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly praised Dale’s deci­sion in a state­ment sent to NPI a short time after the rul­ing was released.

“Today’s rul­ing from the fed­er­al court in Ida­ho is the lat­est in more than a dozen rul­ings unan­i­mous­ly hold­ing mar­riage dis­crim­i­na­tion uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. From Ida­ho to Arkansas, Utah to Michi­gan, the courts are affirm­ing that there is no good rea­son for gov­ern­ment to deny mar­riage to com­mit­ted cou­ples,” Wolf­son said.

“As gay cou­ples and their fam­i­lies begin to share in the joy and secu­ri­ty of the free­dom to mar­ry, hearts and minds are open­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion’s bar­ri­ers are falling, and we’re mov­ing our coun­try to the right side of his­to­ry.”

Wash­ing­ton became the first state in the Pacif­ic North­west to embrace mar­riage equal­i­ty when vot­ers upheld SB 6239 by approv­ing Ref­er­en­dum 74 in 2012. Pre­vi­ous­ly, vot­ers had blessed the “every­thing but mar­riage” law passed by the Leg­is­la­ture in 2009, which per­mit­ted LGBT cou­ples to form civ­il unions, but not mar­ry. A pre­vi­ous effort to over­turn the state’s statu­to­ry ban on mar­riage equal­i­ty before the state Supreme Court (Ander­sen v. King Coun­ty) was unsuc­cess­ful.

Ida­ho’s ban on mar­riage equal­i­ty is at the end of Arti­cle III, which per­tains to the state’s leg­isla­tive depart­ment. It reads as fol­lows:

Sec­tion 28. Mar­riage. A mar­riage between a man and a woman is the only domes­tic legal union that shall be valid or rec­og­nized in this state.

It is a well-estab­lished prin­ci­ple of Amer­i­can law that state con­sti­tu­tions may not con­flict with the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States. A state con­sti­tu­tion may give the peo­ple of a state greater pro­tec­tions than what the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides, but not less. The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion is the min­i­mum base­line.

Last year, in Unit­ed States v. Wind­sor, the Unit­ed States Supreme Court struck down the fed­er­al lev­el ban on mar­riage equal­i­ty. Since then, fed­er­al courts across the coun­try have been inval­i­dat­ing state lev­el bans on mar­riage equal­i­ty with breath­tak­ing speed. Judge Dale’s rul­ing is the newest.

But it’s not like­ly to stay the newest for very long. In fact, a fed­er­al judge is sched­uled to hear oral argu­ments tomor­row in a pair of con­sol­i­dat­ed cas­es chal­leng­ing Ore­gon’s ban on mar­riage equal­i­ty. Bar­ring a deci­sion by a week from this Fri­day, activists in Ore­gon are pre­pared to sub­mit sig­na­tures to place a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment on the bal­lot to reverse the amend­ment adopt­ed in 2004 that defines mar­riage as between a male and a female.

We’ll have more reac­tion to this news as we get it.

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  1. […] — Con­grats to Ida­ho cou­ples and activists. […]

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