One by one, state laws against marriage equality are being challenged in the courts, and one by one, civil-rights proponents are prevailing. The latest victory came late yesterday, when a federal court struck down Idaho’s state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
One week after hearing oral arguments in the case Latta v. Otter, sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale found the state’s voter-approved amendment that prohibits gay couples from marrying to be unconstitutional…. Dale ordered clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting on Friday.In her opinion, Dale wrote that the right to marry is fundamental, one which Idaho’s laws wrongfully deny its gay and lesbian citizens. The U.S. Supreme Court has referenced the fundamental right to marry in at least 10 separate instances – most recently, in the landmark United States v. Windsor decision, which gutted the Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for federal agencies to begin recognizing same-sex marriages.
In 2006, Idaho voters, by a nearly two-to-one margin, approved something called Amendment 2, which prohibited the state from legally recognizing same-sex unions. Following yesterday’s court ruling, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) vowed to appeal, citing his commitment to “upholding the will of the people.”
There is, of course, a widely held belief that the issue will inevitably have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, and with that in mind, Judge Dale yesterday seemed to remind Justice Antonin Scalia of what he said in 2003. As Ryan Reilly explained:
Scalia at the time was trying to warn that the court’s decision against an anti-sodomy law would call into question laws based on moral choices, like same-sex marriage (and, he wrote, bigamy, adult incest and prostitution). He wrote that “ ‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.”Dale cited that Scalia quote in her opinion on Tuesday, using the conservative justice’s words to undermine Idaho’s argument that the law was about preserving traditional civil marriage as an institution, and that any discriminatory effects of the law were incidental.
As for how Idaho fits into the recent trend, yesterday’s ruling is part of a larger pattern.
Just last week, for example, a court ruled against Arkansas’ anti-gay constitutional amendment. This came a month after a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The month before that, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on marriage equality.
Civil-rights proponents have scored related victories in Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah and Texas, just over the last half-year or so.
For the right, that’s quite a losing streak.
Finally, note that Dale’s ruling in Idaho is scheduled to take effect on Friday morning, which gives state officials a few days to file an appeal and seek a stay before same-sex couples can legally marry in the state.