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A federal judge in Idaho has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage on the grounds that it unjustly deprives gay and lesbian couples of access to rights and benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples.
The 2006 amendment to Idaho's state constitution — as well as corresponding amendments to the state's marriage statutes passed in the 1990s — violate both the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by denying the state's “gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegates their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so,” according to Boise, Idaho-based U.S. District Judge Candy Dale's 57-page ruling, which she handed down late Tuesday afternoon.
“A state's broad authority to regulate matters of state concern does not include the power to violate an individual's protected constitutional rights,” Judge Dale wrote in her decision, noting that the ban denies same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional and spiritual benefits of marriage.
“(Gay and lesbian couples) 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,” she said.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement released on Wednesday that the state intends to appeal Judge Dale's ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as request that the higher court postpone the ruling's implementation pending a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Absent that postponement, Judge Dale said her decision will become effective on Friday.
“Idaho voters decided this issue in 2006 by defining ‘marriage’ in our Constitution as a union between a man and a woman,” Gov. Otter said in his statement. “My job now is to ensure our state’s voice is heard loud and clear on appeal, and that Idaho’s right to self-determination is not further undermined.”
Judge Dale is the seventh U.S. district judge to overturn a state ban on same-sex marriage in part or in whole since the beginning of the year, and the eleventh federal judge to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which invalidated provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.