BOISE, Idaho — A federal appeals court declared same-sex marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday and followed the ruling a few hours later with a mandate allowing the Idaho marriages to start immediately.
The order, issued Tuesday evening, means that same-sex couples in Idaho won’t have to wait for the standard seven-day time span for the ruling to take effect.
“This is a super sweet victory,” said Sue Latta, who along with Traci Ehlers sued Idaho last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban.
“Taxes are easier, real estate is easier, parenting is easier, end-of-life planning is easier,” Latta said.
The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure typically provide the seven-day waiting period to give the losing side a chance to appeal.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the bans in both states. But in Nevada a U.S. District Court judge still must issue a formal injunction overturning the state’s gay marriage ban.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.
“Idaho and Nevada’s marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states,” Reinhardt wrote.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto issued a joint statement saying it could be two weeks before a final order is issued by a U.S. District Court judge in Nevada. They said county clerks and district attorneys should be making plans to handle marriage licenses.
But in Idaho, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said they were still considering next steps.
“We are still reviewing the decisions and orders issued today by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Wasden said in a prepared statement after the mandate was issued. “It’s still too early to know fully what the decision and orders mean for Idaho and how the state will proceed.”
The governor said the decision is “disappointing, but not unexpected.”
Earlier in the day, Ada County Clerk Chris Rich said he was waiting for direction on whether or not he should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“We’ve had a number of calls from same-sex couples asking about obtaining a license, if they can come in today, or when they can come in,” Rich said. “And we just don’t know, so I think: Stay tuned, watch the media, call your county clerk and just ask where things are.”
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