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Four Idaho couples file federal lawsuit challenging state’s gay marriage ban

Friday, November 8, 2013

BOISE, Idaho — Four Idaho couples are suing the state in federal court to challenge laws banning same-sex marriage and denying recognition to same-sex couples who married in other states.

Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson filed the lawsuit in Boise’s U.S. District Court on Friday.

Idaho gay marriage

Todd Dvorak, AP
Amber Beierle, left, and Rachael Robertson are two of the plaintiffs in a federal challenge to Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Their lawsuit brings the first challenge to Idaho’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court made two key decisions bolstering the legal status of such marriages earlier this year.

The women, who are represented by two local attorneys and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, contend that Idaho’s laws violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The state has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

“Idaho’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and refusal to respect existing marriages undermine s the plaintiff couples’ ability to achieve their life goals and dreams, disadvantages them financially, and denies them ‘dignity and status of immense import,’” the women wrote in their lawsuit. “Further, they and their children are stigmatized and relegated to a second-class status by being barred from marriage.”

The lawsuit utilizes a legal strategy that has been effective in a similar case arising out of Ohio, arguing that the state has historically recognized marriages performed in other states that would have been considered illegal under Idaho law, such as marriage between people of different races.

Idaho law barred marriages between Caucasians and other races until 1959. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled those types of laws were unconstitutional in 1967.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits. The high court also declined to decide a case from California this year, leaving in place a lower court ‘s ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in that state.

In the Idaho lawsuit, the women note that they are allowed to file joint federal tax returns just as any married couple may, but that they are prohibited from joint tax filing status in Idaho, forcing them to file separately here.

They also note that they lack the right in Idaho to make decisions for an ill or incapacitated spouse, the right to recognition as a legal parent, and a host of other rights and responsibilities otherwise afforded to married couples in the state.

The case is Latta v. Otter.

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17 more reader comments:

  1. LBTQ NATION come to WV please!!!

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:07pm
  2. I agree Christine, I'd be so happy :)

    Replied on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:08pm
  3. Ooppss LGBTQ

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:08pm
  4. OK, Idaho! As a resident of the Gem State I would be proud for us to join the civilized world in letting people in love get married! Let’s make this happen!

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:08pm
  5. As a born and raised Idahoan who has lived in Canada the past 5 years because gay marriage is legal everywhere, I would LOVE to see my home state recognize my marriage as legal!

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:12pm
  6. Good Luck to WV N Idaho let it happen!!!

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:14pm
  7. Only potatoes get respect in Idaho.

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:17pm
  8. This is how the LGBTQ community will win this battle–one state at a time.

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:20pm
  9. Where do I sign up

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 8:53pm
  10. Wonderful. And hopefully the domino effect will make Utah next.

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:06pm
  11. The most difficult states will be the Bible Belt states :( Once we get the rest of the states on board then we can attack the south once again!!!!

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:17pm
  12. so glad to see other snow getting the courage to stand up and fight for their rights. Go grrrrllllls

    Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 11:50pm
  13. We need to do the same In Oklahoma!!! I’m in!!!

    Posted on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 1:13am
  14. I’m a Idahoan and heterosexual, but I’m disappointed in how Idaho is so small closed minded,

    Posted on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 2:29am
  15. Justice for the gays in our communities. Life – liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

    Posted on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 3:46am
  16. thy should legalize gay marriage everywhere, thts the best n happiest thing in the world tht needs to be done cause were nt going no where……….am gay, in love and proud of it

    Posted on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 3:58am
  17. Unfortunately, the courts are the only way this will happen in Idaho in the near future. Average Idahoans are decent, fair-minded people, for the most part. Most of our political “leaders,” on the other hand, are fascist right-wing nut-cases.

    Posted on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 4:01am