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Religious Tolerance logo

Idaho same-sex marriage (SSM) lawsuit Latta v. Otter.

2014-OCT-07: Ruling by a 3-judge panel
of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
OCT-15: Marriage equality comes to Idaho.
OCT-21: State continues appeal process
hoping to restore marriage ban.

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US map with idaho highlighted Idaho's case: Latta v. Otter:

2014-OCT-07: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issues its decision:

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court had been considering the two lawsuits -- from Idaho and Nevada -- separately. However, they issued a single decision for both states. They ruled unanimously that the bans of same-sex marriages in both sates are unconstitutional.

Also, since mid-2013, there here have been about three dozen lawsuits in state and federal courts involving marriage equality in states around the country. In all but one case, the ruling was in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The affirmative rulings have all been based on the due process clause and/or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That Amendment requires that federal, state, and local governments treat people equally. Thus, if opposite-sex couples can marry if they meet certain age, financial, and genetic requirements, courts have decided that the federal constitution requires that same-sex couples should also be allowed to marry with the same restrictions, and receive the same benefits and protections of marriage for themselves and their children.

It would have been necessary for defendants in these three dozen cases to put forth very convincing arguments why the 14th Amendment clauses should not be applied to same-sex marriages. The defendants tried to do this, arguing that marriage equality would:

  • cause children of same-sex married parents to not thrive as well as children of opposite-sex married couples.
  • cause the marriage rate to drop.
  • cause the birth rate to drop.
  • radically change how the institution of marriage had always been defined in America.
  • deny children the right to have a mom and dad.
  • etc.

However, almost all courts rejected all of these arguments as being of little or no merit. The 9th Circuit Court also could not find any justification to find the same-sex marriage ban constitutional.

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At this point, it seemed likely that whatever path the State of Idaho took, the end point would be marriage equality coming to Idaho's same-sex couples.
  • Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden (R) were both strongly opposed to marriage equality because of their philosophical and political views. They could not willingly accept the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court and bring equality to Idaho.

  • The 9th Circuit Court is generally regarded as the most liberal Circuit Court in the country. If the case were appealed to a larger panel of judges or to the whole court the result would almost certainly have upheld the District Court's ruling.

  • Appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court would not likely succeed. The court had just recently rejected requests for appeals by five states. There was every reason to expect that the court would be consistent and would reject an appeal from Idaho as well.

This conclusion seems to be correct. But it actually came a lot sooner than most people expected, and by an unexpected path.

The State of Idaho requested that the U.S. Supreme Court issue a temporary stay. That would at least delay the inevitable. Justice Anthony Kennedy is responsible for emergency requests from the nine states served by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the state, a stay would cause what they believed were two benefits: It would prevent same-sex couples from marrying immediately. It would also avoid having to forcibly divorce same-sex married couples against their will at some time in the future if the courts ultimately determined that states can continue their marriage ban in spite of the 14th Amendment.

The state of Idaho planned to appeal their decision initially to the 11-judge full court. If they lost, they would then have the option of appealing the case later to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Kennedy agreed with Idaho's request and issued a temporary stay on OCT-08. He gave the plaintiffs in case until the evening of OCT-09 to submit their response to the stay.

On OCT-10, the Supreme Court ended the temporary stay. The Associated Press tweeted:

"BREAKING: Supreme Court lifts hold on same-sex weddings in Idaho."

This produced 530 retweets containing a wide range of emotions, They included:

"Huge news"

"Shame on you!!! You are destroying our human values and social fabric by allowing abnormal, sickening gay marriage! Y imposing it?"

"Dragging us back to the swamp."

"You can tell liberals are stupid by what makes them happy."

"Another Celebration of HUMAN RIGHTS ... Love Wins Again"

"Ha ha, eat it Idaho conservative homophobes!"

Late on OCT-10, Governor Otto (R) issued a statement:

"The Supreme Court's order lifting Justice Kennedy's stay effectively allows same-sex marriage in Idaho [to begin] as soon as the 9th Circuit directs compliance with its decision. I disagree with the court's conclusion, which negates the 2006 vote of the people of Idaho, is contrary to the values of most Idahoans, and undermines fundamental states' rights. But we are a nation of laws. Idaho now should proceed with civility and in an orderly manner to comply with any forthcoming order from the 9th Circuit."

On OCT-13, the 9th Circuit Court said that same-sex couple would be able to marry, starting on 2014-OCT-15 at 10 AM. 5 Marriage equality had come to still another state.

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2014-OCT-21: Idaho's Governor and Attorney General appeal case to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

According Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed News:

"Idaho Gov. Butch Otter tells the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that its ruling in favor of marriage equality could cause significant harms, 'especially [to] the children of heterosexuals'." 6

Governor Otto (R) asked for a "limited en blanc" review of the case, which would involve a larger, 11-judge panel consisting of the chief judge and 10 judges chosen at random from among the Circuit Court's 29 active judges.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Alia Beard Rau and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, "Supreme Court stays 9th Circuit ruling on gay-marriage ban," AZCentral, 2014-OCT-07 at: http://www.azcentral.com/
  2. Emergency application to stay mandate..." Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, 2014-OCT-08, at: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/
  3. Lyle Denniston, "FURTHER UPDATE: Same-sex marriage OK in Nevada," Scotus Blog, 2014-OCT-08, at: http://www.scotusblog.com/
  4. " 'We're Walking on Clouds': Gay Marriages Begin in Nevada." NBC News, 2014-OCT-09, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
  5. "Appeals court lifts Idaho's stay on same-sex marriage," Idaho Statesman, 2014-OCT-13, at: http://www.idahostatesman.com/
  6. Chris Geidner, "Idaho Governor Asks Appeals Court To Reconsider Same-Sex Marriage Ruling," BuzzFeed News, 2014-OCT-22, at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/
  7. "Plaintiffs: 9th Circuit Court should deny Otter's request for rehearing," KTVB-TV, 2014-NOV-13, at: http://www.ktvb.com/
  8. Andy Towle, "Idaho governor says he'll file for full 9th Circuit to re-hear case challenging gay marriage ban," Towleroad, 2014-OCT-21, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
  9. Jennifer Bendery, "Idaho Governor Vows To Keep Fighting Supreme Court Ruling Allowing Same-Sex Marriage." Huffington Post, 2014-OCT-31, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-OCT-09
Latest update: 2014-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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