Oct 7, 2014 7:28 PM
Appeals court: Gay marriage legal in Idaho, Nevada
The Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) A federal appeals court declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in 30 other states.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the two states' bans on gay marriage, ruling they violated equal protection rights.
"This is a super sweet victory," said Sue Latta, who along with Traci Ehlers sued Idaho last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho's same-sex marriage ban.
"Taxes are easier, real estate is easier, parenting is easier, end-of-life planning is easier," Latta said.
Logan Seven, 54, a limousine driver for Chapelle de l'amour wedding chapel in downtown Las Vegas, said he always wanted to get married on a beach, barefoot and in a white tuxedo.
"Trying to find the right man is the hard part," he said Tuesday after his boss told him about the gay marriage ruling.
The Chicago native said he was surprised when he moved to Las Vegas and learned that the town that touts itself as a marriage capital didn't allow gay marriages. "It's a no-brainer," Seven said. "Love is love."
But exactly when same-sex weddings would happen in Idaho and Nevada was unclear.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto issued a joint statement saying it could be two weeks before a final order is issued by a U.S. District Court judge in Nevada. They said county clerks and district attorneys should be making plans to handle marriage licenses.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's spokesman Todd Dvorak said his office believes a previous 9th Circuit stay on marriages pending a U.S. Supreme Court appeal remains in place.
Deborah Ferguson, attorney for the plaintiffs involved in Idaho's gay marriage lawsuit, said it's uncertain when licenses will be issued. While there was no immediate legal impediment to county clerks issuing licenses to gay couples, many will rely on the state attorney general's office for guidance, Ferguson said.
Ferguson's legal team said they'd ask the 9th Circuit to dissolve the stay as soon as possible.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.
"Idaho and Nevada's marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states," Reinhardt wrote.
He rejected the argument that same-sex marriages will devalue traditional marriage, leading to more out-of-wedlock births.
"This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response," Reinhardt wrote. "We reject it out of hand."
Technically, the court upheld a trial judge's ruling striking down Idaho's ban and reversed a lower-court ruling upholding Nevada's ban.
Reinhardt ordered a "prompt issuance" of a lower court's order to let same-sex couples wed In Nevada.
"We are absolutely delighted that wedding bells will finally be ringing for same-sex couples in Nevada," said Tara Borelli, the lawyer who argued the Nevada case for Lambda Legal.
Monte Neil Stewart, the Idaho-based attorney who argued the case for Nevada on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, declined to say whether he'll challenge the order for the prompt start to same-sex marriages.
State and federal court judges have been striking down bans at a rapid rate since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.
On Monday, the nation's top court unexpectedly rejected appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans. The decision cleared the way for a dramatic expansion of gay marriage in the United States and might have signaled that it's only a matter of time before same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states.
The appeals court panel did not rule on a similar case in Hawaii, which legalized gay marriage in December. Hawaii's governor had asked the court to toss out a lawsuit challenging the state's ban and an appeal to the 9th Circuit filed before Hawaii lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage.
All three judges on the panel were appointed by Democratic presidents. President Bill Clinton appointed Judges Marsha Berzon and Ronald Gould. President Jimmy Carter appointed Reinhardt.
The court also has jurisdiction in three other states that still have marriage bans in place: Alaska, Arizona and Montana. Lawsuits challenging bans in those states are still pending in lower courts and have not reached the 9th Circuit.
Elias reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Kimberly Pierceall in Las Vegas and Rebecca Boone in Boise contributed to this report.