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Federal appeals court puts Idaho gay marriage ruling on hold pending appeal

Thursday, May 15, 2014
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Updated: 4:20 p.m. MDT

BOISE, Idaho — Same-sex couples planning to marry and supporters hoping to help them celebrate at courthouses across Idaho saw their plans put on hold Thursday by a federal appeals court.

But some Boise residents said they would gather anyway, trading weddings for rallies.

Idaho’s gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Candy Dale said the law unconstitutionally denied gay and lesbian residents their fundamental right to marry. Dale said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting Friday morning.

But Thursday afternoon, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay while it considers whether a longer stay is needed. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden both had asked the court to place Dale’s ruling on hold while they appeal.

Christopher Stoll, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the organization was pleased that the 9th Circuit will carefully consider their arguments that no stay is warranted.

The group helped represent the four Idaho couples who brought the lawsuit that led to Dale’s ruling.

“We trust the court will consider the matter promptly,” Stoll said in a prepared statement. “We hope the appeals court will allow the district court’s order to take effect as soon as possible so that all Idaho families can enjoy the important protections that marriage provides.”

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples and their supporters were planning to gather at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise on Friday morning for weddings and celebration.

Several local businesses and supporters had promised to participate by offering free flowers, wedding photography, coffee and discounted pastries to couples getting married. Several residents who are ordained to perform weddings also offered their services.

As news of the stay spread, the wedding plans turned to plans for a demonstration.

Floral shop Flowers at Will had planned to give free bouquets or boutonnieres to the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license, said owner Will Heatter. He also wanted to attend the celebration with his partner to “watch love happen.”

Though he knew a stay was a possibility, Heatter said he was surprised by the news.

“If tomorrow’s not the day, then tomorrow’s not the day — but we’re not giving up the fight,” he said. “In my heart, I know we’re one step closer.”

If people still plan on gathering at the courthouse, Heatter said he will go to support them.

Meanwhile, at least one Idaho business announced it would rather close than offer services to gay couples. Coeur d’Alene’s Hitching Post, a popular wedding chapel, told the Spokesman-Review that it would not perform marriages for same-sex couples, even if that meant closing its doors after being open for 95 years.

But city attorney Warren Wilson said wedding venues that turn away gay couples could be in violation of Coeur d’Alene’s local law that prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

The 9th Circuit in San Francisco already is reviewing a gay marriage case out of Nevada.

In that case, eight gay couples are challenging Nevada’s constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2002 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal judge in Reno upheld the law in 2012, prompting the appeal.

Arguments still haven’t been set in that case. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the state ban.

Elsewhere, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is reviewing same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma that were overturned by federal court judges. The appeals court has heard arguments on both cases, and a ruling is expected soon.

Developing story, check back for updates.

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