A U.S. federal judge struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, saying it relegated same-sex couples to a second-class status in violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.
“Marriage is a fundamental right of all citizens, which neither tradition nor the majority may deny,” Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale wrote in her opinion.
U.S. District Magistrate Candy Dale issued the ruling in the case of four same-sex couples who challenged the constitutionality of Idaho’s marriage laws, which voters approved as an amendment to the state constitution in 2006. Dale says the state must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting at 9 a.m. Friday.
“In 2006, the people of Idaho exercised their fundamental right, reaffirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” said Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, who was named as a defendant, alongside with Ada County Clerk Chris Rich.
“Today’s decision, while disappointing, is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court. I am firmly committed to upholding the will of the people and defending our constitution.”
The Idaho lawsuit was brought in November by two lesbian couples whose out-of-state marriages were invalid in Idaho and two couples who sought to be married in Idaho but were denied licenses.
The two fundamental issues were pointed by attorneys for the defendants – tradition and the protection of children – as they argued for upholding the ban and Idaho’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other places.
The couple’s attorney, Deborah Ferguson, said the ruling recognized that the families are part of Idaho’s community and that they deserved the same protections and respect as other Idaho families.
“The court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for everyone who cares about freedom and fairness,” Ferguson said in a statement.
However, earlier Tuesday, Otter filed a preemptive motion asking for an immediate stay if Dale did rule against the gay marriage ban. Both Otter’s requests were denied.
“Judge Dale’s denial of the state’s request for a stay of her decision on same-sex marriage is regrettable in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to stay a similar case, but not surprising. We will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court,” said Gov. Butch Otter.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is preparing his own request for a stay, which should be filed today. Wasden is also preparing to file an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Virginia, opponents of the state’s ban on gay marriage told a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday that the prohibition discriminated against same-sex couples, while supporters said they considered it an appropriate defense of a traditional family model, says Reuters.
Meanwhile in Oregon, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Organization for Marriage cannot defend that state’s ban on same-sex marriage after the state attorney general refused to do so. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the group’s motion to intervene.
The decision paves the way for a ruling on the constitutionality of Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban, which could come at any time.