A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday rejected a request from Idaho's governor to put same-sex weddings on hold while he appeals her ruling from a day earlier that struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote that the appeal is unlikely to succeed so there's no reason to keep the state from granting marriage licenses to gay couples starting Friday.
Dale noted she already found Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's arguments lacked legal merit when she struck down the ban Tuesday evening. The judge said allowing Idaho to continue enforcing its laws against same-sex marriage would irreparably harm the four couples who sued over the ban, along with other gay couples.
“Nor does the public interest favor preserving a status quo that deprives individuals of their constitutional rights,” Dale wrote. “The court finds a stay pending appeal is not warranted.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is expected to file an emergency motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday asking for same-sex marriages to be put on hold pending an appeal.
Otter's attorneys also are expected to file an emergency motion for a hearing and stay with the federal appeals court.
The governor said in a statement Tuesday that Dale's ruling overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban was disappointing, but it was just one step in a long battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nation's highest court last year found that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage improperly deprived gay couples of due process.
Gay rights activists have since won multiple lower-court cases, and expectations are high that the Supreme Court eventually will rule that gays can marry in every state. So far, gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
In the request to Dale, Otter's attorneys said they were convinced that if the judge wouldn't issue a stay, the 9th Circuit or Supreme Court would.
“That conviction is based on the fact that the Ninth Circuit granted such a stay in the California same-sex marriage' case, the Sixth district did the same in the Michigan same-sex marriage case, and the United States Supreme Court did the same in the Utah same-sex marriage case,” Otter's attorneys wrote.
Otter's attorneys said the stay was necessary to prevent the “chaos, confusion, conflict, uncertainty and spawn of further litigation and administrative actions seen in Utah and, to a lesser extent, in Michigan.”
The governor's attorneys characterized those situations as an “unmitigated disaster.”
The Supreme Court issued a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah on Jan. 6, two weeks after a federal court overturned that state's same-sex marriage ban. In the meantime, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to issue a stay while attorneys for Utah sought an appeal.
Dale's ruling ending the ban came in response to a lawsuit against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich brought by four Idaho same-sex couples. The judge said the ban unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry, and wrongly stigmatizes their families.
“This is exciting news,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. “The court was right to strike down this discriminatory law. Marriage does provide recognition and peace of mind, not only for the plaintiffs involved in this case, but for all loving and committed couples.”
Also Wednesday, a federal judge ruled a national group cannot defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban after the state's attorney general refused to do so. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the motion to intervene from the National Organization for Marriage.
The decision paves the way for a ruling on the constitutionality of Oregon's same-sex marriage ban, which could come at any time.