Gay Rights

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Montana Senate Panel Fails Its Own "Add the Words" Bill

Posted By on Sat, Jan 31, 2015 at 12:09 PM

The line to testify before the Montana Legislature was drastically shorter than the line in Boise on Jan. 26. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The line to testify before the Montana Legislature was drastically shorter than the line in Boise on Jan. 26.
While many of Idaho's constituents are still reeling from last week's failure of the "Add the Words" bill in the House State Affairs Committee, Montana's state legislature came to a similar conclusion on Friday.

Unlike the three days of testimony and another morning of debate and discussion among committee members in Boise, Montana lawmakers heard testimony, voted against and tabled a bill that would provide protection for gay, lesbian and transgender people in the state, according to the Missoulian.

The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann of Helena, an openly lesbian Democrat who told her fellow lawmakers that the law needs to reflect the changes in the world. 

"This is adding to the human rights law people who are experiencing discrimination," Kaufmann said. "It does not take liberties away from people."

Just like in Idaho, the measure in Montana would have added the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's Human Rights Act, protecting members of the LGBT community from discrimination in housing and employment. Just like in Idaho, many supporters and opponents lined up to testify—using many of the same arguments against discrimination and for business freedom.

"I can love them but not bake them a wedding cake," said one woman who was against the bill.

And just like in Idaho, the bill failed along party lines by a 7-5 vote in the Republican-led committee. But unlike Idaho, where testimony lasted 22 hours, the Montana committee only heard two hours of testimony from the public before making the decision.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Judge Orders Idaho to Pay Attorney Fees in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 11:33 AM

  • Harrison Berry
Though Idaho's same-sex couples began receiving marriage licenses through the state of Idaho Oct. 15, the fight over marriage equality in the Gem State is far from over, as Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has told the media that he will continue to fight for the 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban despite its defeat in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, there remains the possibility that Madelynn Taylor, the veteran who sued Idaho for the right to be buried next to her wife in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery may still be denied that right even after her spouse was interred in the cemetery.

Dec. 19, another installment was added to this long drama when U.S. Judge Candy Dale, who in May declared that Idaho's same-sex marriage ban violated same-sex couples' Constitutional rights, has ordered the state of Idaho to pay a portion of plaintiffs' attorney fees and all of their litigation expenses in Latta v. Idaho.

The plaintiffs—four same-sex couples who sued the state over the ban—requested $463,480 in attorney fees and $4,363.08 in expenses, but the state partially opposed the request and argued for a reduced award of $203,435 in attorney fees and $614.36 in litigation expenses. In the final assessment, Dale awarded the plaintiffs $397,300 in attorney fees and $4,363 in litigation expenses.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Federal Judge Overturns Montana's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 4:26 PM

A federal judge has overturned Montana's ban on same-sex marriage, the Associated Press reports.

In an historic ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Morris' ruling comes after four Montana same-sex couples filed suit against the state in May. He said that his ruling was effective immediately. Two of the plaintiffs in the case were Angie and Tonya Rolando.

"Calling Tonya my partner, my significant other, my girlfriend, my perpetual fiancee has never done justice to our relationship," Angie Rolando told the AP. "Now I can look forward to the day when I can introduce her as my wife."

In September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed similar rulings in Idaho and Nevada. The first marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in the Gem State Oct. 15 after months of legal wrangling.
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Coeur d'Alene Minister: LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance is 'Involuntary Servitude'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 10:05 AM

In an opinion published in this morning's Coeur d'Alene Press, a local minister has equated the city's LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance with slavery.

"Can there be any doubt that this ordinance provides an avenue for coerced labor—involuntary servitude?" wrote Christian Candlelight Christian Fellowship Pastor Paul Van Noy.

According to Van Noy, the city's ordinance, which makes discrimination in housing, public accommodations or employment based on gender identity or sexual orientation a misdemeanor, violates the First, 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits involuntary servitude and slavery, and Van Noy wrote that the ordinance forces business owners to serve people against their personal religious beliefs. 

Coeur d'Alene's nondiscrimination ordinance recently came under fire from religious groups after a local wedding chapel, The Hitching Post, sued the city for violating its First Amendment-protected freedom of religious practice. The city attorney has said, however, that The Wedding Chapel is not covered under the ordinance. 

Though the ordinance explicitly prohibits certain forms of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Van Noy wrote that it forces business owners to provide goods and services to anyone regardless of whether the business owner supports or doesn't support the aims of the patron or client.

"For example, should a Jewish carpenter in Coeur d’Alene be unwilling to make wooden swastikas for an Aryan Nation group – the carpenter would be in violation. If a local pro-choice printer should be unwilling to produce pro-life materials for a pro-life rally they would be in violation. If a Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Atheist, or Humanist et al. were sought out to provide any service, housing, employment, or public accommodation to any group or person with whom they are unsupportive they would be in violation of this ordinance," he wrote.

Van Noy went on to write that he does not believe that LGBT discrimination is a problem in the north Idaho city, and that the nondiscrimination ordinance creates a protected class out of LGBT people in the city. 

"As we knew before the ordinance was passed, it is now evident that the ordinance protects the rights of one people group at the expense of others. I stated in my arguments of May-June 2013 that our city did not need this ordinance because we did not have a problem with discrimination toward the LGBT community," he wrote.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

State Has Spent More Than $80,000 Defending Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Posted By on Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter allocated $1 million to the state's fight to protect its 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban. But that's considerably higher than what the state has paid so far to defend the ban, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Idaho's legal bill to protect the ban has topped $80,000, and in response to a records request, the office of the governor has released an agreement, made Oct. 7, with Washington, D.C-based attorney Gene Schaerr to compose requests to both the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court for stays of the decision allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in Idaho. The agreement was worth $10,000.

Before that, the state spent $71,477 challenging U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's ruling that the state's ban was unconstitutional. All-told, the state has spent $81,477 on the ban, including $76,920 on private attorneys. 

Among the private litigators the state hired was Monte Stewart, who engaged in oral arguments before the 9th Circuit and charged the state $250 per hour. Stewart also defended Nevada's same-sex marriage ban, but withdrew from defending Idaho's ban. Stewart was replaced by Schaerr.

The more than $80,000 the state has spent defending its ban may not be the end of its legal bills. Otter has filed a brief with the 9th Circuit for an en banc review—including all 11 9th Circuit justices—of its previous ruling upholding Dale's decision, and could also be responsible for the plaintiffs' attorney fees and court costs in the lawsuit that triggered the ruling, Latta v. Otter.

Marriage licenses began being granted to same-sex couples Oct. 15.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Otter Requests 9th Circuit 'En Banc' Review of Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples across Idaho since Oct. 15, but Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who has steadfastly supported the state's 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban, isn't done with the issue just yet.

Oct. 21, Otter requested that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals convene for an en banc review of a previous, 9th Circuit three-judge panel ruling upholding U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's ruling that the ban was unconstitutional. An en banc review would be a judgment by all 11 members of the 9th Circuit Court.

According to a statement released by Otter's office, the governor made the request because the original three-judge panel made "critical errors in its decision, among them failing to apply the correct legal standard to Idaho's marriage laws." 

Specifically, Otter cited The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel's lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene over its nondiscrimination ordinance as an example of the harm presented by same-sex marriages. Coeur d'Alene's nondiscrimination ordinance prohibits housing, workplace and public accommodations discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and the Hitching Post has sued the city over its nondiscrimination ordinance, claiming that the city will force it to conduct same-sex weddings against the owner's religious beliefs, despite the fact that it's a nonprofit religious organization, and thus exempt from the ordinance's scope. 
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Coeur d'Alene Responds to Chapel Lawsuit Over Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:03 AM

The city of Coeur d'Alene has responded to a lawsuit filed by an iconic North Idaho chapel and a Christian legal defense fund over the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel has been in operation since 1919, but after U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho's same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution in May, the chapel's owners told KXLY that they would rather close their chapel than wed a same-sex couple.

"I think the Bible is pretty clear that homosexuality is not his way, and therefore I cannot unite people in a way that I believe would conflict with what the Bible teaches," Hitching Post owner Donald Knapp said at the time.

Oct. 17, days after the last legal barriers to same-sex marriage were removed, Knapp and Alliance Defending Freedom—a religious freedom legal defense group—filed suit against the city over its ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity within city limits. Knapp et al said that the city ordinance would force the Hitching Post to wed same-sex couples, violating its owners' religious beliefs, or face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

But according to Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Michael Gridley, the suit filed against the city has no grounds, since Hitching Post filed for religious corporation status with the secretary of state as a religious institution Oct. 6, exempting it from the nondiscrimination standard to which for-profit companies are held. is a for-profit entity and not a nonprofit religious corporation that would have its religious expression protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"I want to be clear that absent a change in the city's anti-discrimination ordinance or other applicable state or federal law, the city will not prosecute legitimate, nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion," wrote Gridley in a memo to David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom.

"I believe that given the current facts, your clients' lawsuit is premature and not ripe for adjudication. As such, I would ask that you review this letter with your clients and urge them to dismiss their Iawsuit before any more time and resources are expended," he wrote.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

At Last: Madelynn Taylor Secures Same-Sex Burial Rights at Idaho Veterans Cemetery

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Madelynn Taylor - LAURIE PEARMAN
  • Laurie Pearman
  • Madelynn Taylor

In the wake of the historic events that saw Idaho's same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional, veteran Madelynn Taylor has begun the process of securing a spot at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery for the ashes of her and her spouse, Jean Mixner.

Boise Weekly readers first met Taylor in April. Our story caught regional, national and even international attention—telling the story of how Taylor's request to be interred at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery had been rejected.

After being turned down verbally and in writing, the 74-year-old Taylor, whose wife Jean died two years ago (the two were legally married in California in 2008), decided in July to take her fight to court, filing a lawsuit against the the state of Idaho, arguing that her Constitutional rights had been violated.

But Kevin Wallior of the Idaho Veterans Affairs Commission confirmed to Boise Weekly Friday that Taylor was finally filling out the requisite paperwork to have Mixner's ashes interred with her own at the time of Taylor's passing.

Taylor called Boise Weekly Friday. She was elated: "Guess what? We won," she said. 

And indeed Wallior confirmed the historic news.

"She's in process," he told BW.

Previous attempts to apply had been rejected because Idaho did not, until Oct. 14, recognize Taylor and Mixner's same-sex union. 

"Now, since the court system struck down that provision as being unconstitutional, the state now recognizes same-sex marriage, [whether a couple is same- or different-sex] becomes a moot point. We're obligated by law to provide the same services that we would any other veteran," Wallior said.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

UPDATE: Outside Group Seeks to Defend Oregon's Ban on Gay Marriage

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 9:25 AM

UPDATE: May 15, 2014 9:30 a.m.

A federal judge in Eugene, Ore., has denied a national group's attempt to defend Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage, the Northwest News Network reports. The National Organization for Marriage stepped up at the last minute to defend the decade-old voter-approved ballot measure that marriage is between a man and a woman, on the state's behalf.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the national organization failed to prove why it should be allowed to intervene in the case in which four same-sex couples sued Oregon to overturn the state's gay marriage ban.

The ruling came immediately after the hearing Wednesday morning. Gay rights activists say they take hope in the ruling, while an attorney for the National Organization for Marriage said his group plans to appeal the judge's decision.

ORIGINAL POST: May 14, 2014 10 a.m.

As many Idahoans celebrate in the wake of Tuesday’s ruling handed down by a federal judge declaring Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, now it’s Oregon’s turn to decide.

The Northwest News Network reported this morning that a federal judge in Eugene, Ore., will hear arguments from a group that wants to defend a voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

Like Idaho, four same-sex couples sued the state of Oregon to overturn the 2004 ballot measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman. When Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum declined to defend the law, the National Organization for Marriage filed a last-minute motion to be allowed to defend the measure on the state’s behalf.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane will hear arguments on whether the national organization should be allowed to intervene. The group’s chairman, John Eastman, told Northwest News Network, “An attorney general’s obligation is to defend a statue if there are plausible arguments to be made in defense of it. She’s not only not done that, but has affirmatively started attacking the statute it’s her job to defend.”

Eastman says he’s prepared to appeal if the judge rules they cannot intervene in the case.

Idaho’s fight to allow gay marriage may not be over, as Gov. “Butch” Otter has promised to appeal the federal court decision overturning the ban, and he’s willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court. 
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Women Fight to Exclude Idaho AG From Gay Marriage Suit

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 10:26 AM

A federal judge has been asked to discount Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden from four couples' challenge to Idaho's 2006 gay marriage ban. - LAWRENCEWASDEN.COM
  • A federal judge has been asked to discount Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden from four couples' challenge to Idaho's 2006 gay marriage ban.

The fight on behalf of gay marriage in Idaho may have gotten a little messier.

A federal judge has been asked to discount Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden from four women's challenge to the state's gay marriage ban, enacted in 2006, the Associated Press reports. 

At issue is what resources the State of Idaho may use to defend its laws against legal challenges. Deborah Ferguson, the couples' attorney, told the AP that defendants Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich already stand for the state, and that Wasden isn't representing the state in a capacity distinct from Otter or Rich.

"It is unusual to have the state intervene when its interests are already represented through the governor," she told the AP.

Wasden contends that where the state's laws require defense, it's his job to intervene.

"I have an obligation to defend the Constitution and the statutes of Idaho, and that's what we intend to do," he said.

The women involved in the lawsuit are Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson. Their suit argues that Idaho has recognized marriages from other states that were illegal under Idaho law—like common law marriages or unions between first cousins—but has discriminated against them by not recognizing their same-sex marriages. 

Discrimination, they argue, has come in the form of more difficult state tax filings, which includes a ban against them filing joint Idaho tax returns and a chance of financial penalties. 

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