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Politics & Government
Amber and Rachael filed their lawsuit against Idaho in Nov. 2013. They were married Oct. 15, 2014.In November 2013, eight women -- four couples -- sued the state of Idaho over its 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.The plaintiffs, Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori Watsen and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, say Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage violates equal protection and due process guarantees.Two of the couples have been legally married in other states and two have tried to get Idaho marriage licenses and been denied.Their case went to U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale in May 2014. On May 13, eight days after Dale heard the case, she struck down Idaho's same-sex marriage ban.Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden appealed that ruling in an effort to uphold Idaho's Constitution as approved by voters in 2006.On Oct. 7, 2014, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Dale's ruling, striking down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. After more than a week of legal challenges, same-sex marriages began Oct. 15, 2014 in Idaho.

Idaho Couples Sue State Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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Adam Cotterell
/
Boise State Public Radio

Four Idaho couples are suing the state over its ban on same-sex marriage. They asked the U.S. District Court Friday to declare Idaho’s prohibition unconstitutional.

The suit says Idaho’s laws which prohibit gay couples from getting married, and prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, violate equal protection and due process guarantees.

Two of the couples have been legally married in other states and two have tried to get Idaho marriage licenses and been denied.

Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson applied for a marriage license with the Ada County Recorder’s office earlier this week as a preliminary to filing the case. Beierle says she’s a native Idahoan, and she and Robertson love the state.

“We want to make this our forever home,” Beierle says. “To do that and feel a part of everything, we want to effect some positive change and for us that includes marriage equality.”

Beierle doesn’t know how long the legal challenge will last but she acknowledges it could become a major part of her life for a long time. She says she and Robertson are as prepared for that as they can be and are in it for the long haul.

The suit names Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Ada County Clerk/Recorder Christopher Rich as defendants.

“Marriage is the dominion of the states," Otter wrote in an email response. "This is an issue of state sovereignty, and I’m going to fully defend the Constitution and laws of the State Idaho.”

A statement from Rich’s office says the county clerk simply upholds Idaho law. 

The eight plaintiffs, all women, have help from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and are represented by Boise attorneys Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham.

Idaho has statutes against gay marriage and also passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting it in 2006. Ferguson says the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act now makes a legal challenge possible in Idaho.

“When a state’s constitution is in conflict with the U.S. constitution, there is a legal avenue to challenge a state’s constitution and that’s what we’ve done," Ferguson says. “The Supreme Court’s decision in late June was extremely helpful and instructive. And if the federal government has to treat gay people and their families fairly, it seems obvious that Idaho as a state government also should do so.”

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio