U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale delivered many smiles on Tuesday as the marriage equality fight scored another victory, this time in the state of Idaho. According to a report by Reuters, Dale struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage and stated it relegated same-sex couples to second-class status in violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.
In a 57-page decision, Dale concluded, “…Idaho’s marriage laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love.”
Dale’s decision was the latest ruling to overturn state bans on gay marriage and added inspiration for the remaining states where lawsuits have yet to be filed against state Constitutional bans. Barring a hold from a higher court, Dale said her ruling would go into effect on Friday at 9 a.m. Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has already vowed to appeal the ruling.
Otter, who was named in the lawsuit along with Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, said that the decision was “disappointing”, and “is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court.” Otter will also argue on behalf of the voters who “exercised their fundamental right” by approving an amendment back in 2006 which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
But what Otter sees as a setback is considered progression for several gay couples in the state of Idaho and for gay rights nationally. The lawsuit was filed back in November by two lesbian couples whose out-of-state marriages were not recognized in the state due to the 2006 voter approved amendment. Two other gay couples, who were denied license, were also named in the lawsuit that continued a trend of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of these state bans.
The decision comes just a few days after a judge in the state of Arkansas made a similar ruling. Gay couples in that state started obtaining marriage licenses as early as Saturday. The ruling also comes a day after a lawsuit was filed in the state of Alaska. While in Virginia on Tuesday, a U.S. appeals court judge heard arguments on both sides of a state ban on gay marriage that was already struck down as unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen back in February.