Idaho has become the latest state in which same-sex couples are seeking to have the right of marriage, after two couples that married elsewhere joined two couples who want to wed and filed suit against the state on Friday.
The suit, supported by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, was filed in U.S. District Court against Idaho Gov. C.L "Butch" Otter and Chris Rich, the clerk in Ada County, where the couples were denied marriage licenses.
“Like many other couples with a lifelong commitment, the unmarried plaintiffs are spouses in every sense, except that Idaho law will not allow them to marry,” according to the complaint, emailed to reporters. “In fact, under Idaho law, solemnization of their commitment without a marriage license is a crime.”
Idaho’s constitution was amended in 2006 to include a provision that heterosexual marriage is the only legal form of the union. The state is one of 34 to have some form of legal prohibition against same-sex marriage. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia presently allow same-sex couples to wed.
That number is expected to grow. In Illinois, the legislature has approved same-sex marriage and Gov. Pat Quinn has said he’ll sign the bill this month. In Hawaii, the legislature is expected to pass a same-sex bill that opponents have already said they will seek to block through the courts.
The current wave of legislation and lawsuits has been spurred by the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had limited federal recognition to marriages of one man and one woman.
The Idaho suit covers those who were married elsewhere and want their nuptials to be legally recognized, as well as those seeking to wed.
Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers were married in California in 2008, have jointly raised two children and have two grandchildren, according to the suit. Lori and Sharene Watsen said in their filings that they were wed in New York in 2011. Sharene gave birth to a son earlier this year, but Lori’s bid for adoptive rights was rejected by an Idaho state court judge in September, they say.
Amber Beierle, a state historic site manager, is seeking to marry Idaho National Guard veteran Rachael Robertson. Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer also want to marry. Both couples were denied marriage licenses by Ada County officials.
Local counsel for the couples are Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham of Boise.
“Idaho is part of the great Western tradition that strongly values freedom and fairness,” Ferguson said in a prepared statement. “Most people in this state, like most Americans, believe that the law should respect individual freedom and treat all families equally. The couples in this case deserve to be treated with equal fairness and respect, including having the same freedom to marry that others enjoy.”
State officials had no immediate response.
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