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Oct 15, 2014 5:09 PM

Gay marriage arrives in conservative Idaho

The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Gay couples started to marry in one of the most conservative states in the nation Wednesday as more than 100 same-sex couples gathered early at the Boise courthouse and counted down the seconds before the clerk's office opened.

The couples cheered and streamed inside at 9 a.m. as Idaho became the latest state to recognize gay marriages in a burst of court rulings nationwide.

"It's been such a long time coming," Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said. "It's a historic day for Boise and Idaho."

Jordan officiated the marriages of four of the eight women who sued over Idaho's gay marriage ban and were the first to get licenses in the state's most-populous county.

A crowd sang out "here comes the brides" as Rachael and Amber Beierle and Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer headed toward City Hall.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden didn't issue new statements Wednesday, but both Republicans had fought to maintain the state's gay marriage ban, saying it was a matter of state's rights and the will of voters.

The weddings came a day after Otter and Wasden ended their opposition to a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that ordered the state to allow gay couples to wed. They said they had done all they could to fight the case in court, but Otter reaffirmed his support late Tuesday for Idaho's 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

"I'm not going to give up on it," he said. "I'm going to keep on defending it."

The ruling was among the latest wave of orders that started with a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that denied appeals from five states seeking to restore bans on same-sex unions, a move that made gay marriage legal in about 30 states. Since then, lower courts have struck down bans and issued delays by the day. Highlighting the volatility, Alaska gay couples began receiving marriage licenses this week until the 9th Circuit issued a temporary block on same-sex unions late Wednesday while state officials take their case to the nation's high court.

In Idaho, many gay couples doubted their day would come.

"I think about our attorney who was brave enough to bring this forward in a state where nobody thought it could be done, and then we were brave enough to put our names and our faces in front of everything," Amber Beierle said. "I feel honored and privileged to be a part of everything."

The doubt was fueled by Idaho's conservative reputation. Republicans control every statewide and congressional elected office and hold an overwhelming majority in the state Legislature. This year's election season featured ultra-conservative candidates for governor, including one who legally changed his name to "Pro-Life."

Robertson said she and her new wife worried about resistance, but were surprised to find that nothing but support has come since they filed their lawsuit nearly a year ago.

"People see us for us first. They don't go 'Oh, that gay couple.' They say, 'Oh, it's Sheila and Andrea,'" Robertson said. "Really, we're just normal people. We pay our taxes, we go to work. Today we got married."


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