Idaho's Gay Marriage Plaintiffs Disappointed, Not Defeated By Supreme Court Stay
Gay couples were denied marriage licenses at county courthouses around Idaho Wednesday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay preventing lower and appellate court rulings from taking effect.
Nearly 100 people had already gathered outside Ada County's courthouse before doors opened at 8 a.m. Many of those gathered had hoped they'd be getting their marriage licenses.
“And then at about two minutes to 8:00, we received a phone call from the state informing us that a stay had been issued,” says Ada County's Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane.
He says when they hung up the phone they checked email and saw the stay. Then they hit print.
“We were printing it when the doors to the courthouse opened and we let people in,” he says.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling striking down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban. After a Supreme Court decision Monday leaving similar rulings in place in several other states, legal experts expected the high court to ignore stay requests from state of Idaho. That's not what happened.
The crowd outside the courthouse was prepared for a party. There was a DJ set up, organizers cut sheets of cake, there were a lot of hugs.
Two of the eight plaintiffs who sued Idaho over its gay marriage ban, Amber and Rachael (Robertson) Beierle, were near the front of the line to go inside the Ada County Courthouse.
When the first couple arrived at the counter to get a marriage license, the plaintiffs' lawyer Deborah Ferguson gets handed a copy of the stay, stopping same-sex marriages.
“Pending further order of the Supreme Court," Ferguson says. "We have a response due tomorrow at 5:00.”
The Beierles have continually said they’d get married someday, but because of the twists and turns of the legal process Amber says they’ve never allowed themselves to believe it was about to happen. Not in May when the original ruling came out. Not Tuesday when the appeals court upheld it. Then Amber says, there was this morning.
“We had sort of reserved and reserved and reserved for so long, and then you kind of have that sense of relief once you get past the metal detectors and you’re headed up to the counter," Amber says. "You know, it happens in movies. It doesn’t happen in real life, that that fax comes from the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to Idaho. It doesn’t happen, but it did.”
In this case, the order didn't come from the chief justice, and it wasn't sent via fax. The order was signed by Justice Anthony Kennedy. But it was at the last minute.
Rachael Beierle, who legally changed her name from Robertson a few months ago, says she’s emotional but not defeated.
“I’m still positive. I still have no doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to get married soon," she says. "But I think just because we were all the way up to the counter and ready to file and then got turned away, you know that’s where it hit us.”
This was not the first time Rachael and Amber have been turned away at that counter. Last year before the lawsuit was filed, they came to the Ada County recorder’s office and asked for a marriage license. Amber says they didn’t expect to get it then. But today, at least for a moment, they did.
When this roller coaster might stop for the plaintiffs and other same-sex couples in Idaho is not clear. Legal experts say the Beireles could be back at this courthouse Friday. Or they might have to wait until next year to find out what the Supreme Court really thinks about same-sex marriage.
“It’s going to happen," Amber says. "And I think it’s time that everyone understands that it’s going to happen. So to further spend the tax payers’ money, to further tug at the heart strings of hard working Idahoans, it just needs to stop.”
Find reporter Adam Cotterell on Twitter @CotterellAdam
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