Both sides in Idaho marriage suit ask judge to rule swiftly, without trial

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Four couples currently suing the state of Idaho over its marriage equality ban have asked that a federal judge rule in their favor without going through a trial, on the grounds that recent similar rulings by federal courts imply that current Idaho marriage laws are unconstitutional.

Idaho’s governor and the defendant in the case, C.L. “Butch” Otter, has also asked for an immediate ruling. He stated that marriage is a states’ rights issue and claimed that marriage equality is harmful to children.

On February 19, both sides in the case submitted legal briefs to the US District Court in Boise.

The couples pointed out that federal court judges in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio have recently overturned, in part or in whole, the states’ bans on same-sex marriage. They also cited the June 2013 ruling by the US Supreme Court that the federal government must grant legally married same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

One of the Idaho couples, Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, married in 2008 in California, and say their home state is wrong to consider Ehlers a legal stranger to her own grandchildren. Lori and Sharene Watsen, who married in 2011 in New York, have a son together, but under current law the only way Lori Watsen can have the legal authority to consent to her son’s medical treatment is via power of attorney, which she must renew every six months.

Although three out of the four couples have children or even grandchildren, Gov. Otter maintains that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is vital to its goal of encouraging “stable, husband-wife unions for the benefit of their children.”

His attorneys stated in the court filing, “Common sense and a wealth of social-science data teach that children do best emotionally, socially, intellectually and even economically when reared in an intact home by both biological parents.”

In contrast, the couples who brought the lawsuit asserted that Otter’s view on the issue has no basis in reality and is nothing but an excuse for discrimination. They also pointed out that denying legal recognition to one type of life partner does not in any way affect heterosexual marriage or procreation, nor does it impact the quality of their parenting.

Currently, same-sex couples who marry in other states cannot file their state taxes together in Idaho, instead being required to file as if they are single.

429Magazine

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