Not Just Yet 

Idaho same-sex couples will have to wait to argue their case again before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Cakes (courtesy of Pastry Perfection) and coffee (courtesy of Flying M) served as some "common ground" between opposing factions in the debate over same-sex marriage.

Patrick Sweeney

Cakes (courtesy of Pastry Perfection) and coffee (courtesy of Flying M) served as some "common ground" between opposing factions in the debate over same-sex marriage.

Seriously, everybody loves cake.

As hundreds of well-wishers gathered on the steps of the Ada County Courthouse--celebrating the May 13 landmark ruling that shelved Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage--they were met by some token opposition, insisting that weddings were the exclusive domain of a man and woman.

"But at one point, some of the protesters were having some of our cake," said Emily Walton. "That makes me enormously happy. From now on, any protester can show up at any of our parties and have some cake."

And that may be sooner than later, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could rule at any moment on Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's effort to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Candy Dale's ruling (BW, Citydesk, "Historic Ruling," May 13).

In her 57-page decision, Dale wrote that current Idaho law denied same-sex couples the "economic, practical, emotional and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love."

And the love that four particular same-sex Idaho couples share led them to Dale's courtroom in Boise's U.S. Courthouse, where they said they had been denied wedding licenses at the Ada County Courthouse. When Dale agreed with the couples, Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden turned to the 9th Circuit.

"I am proceeding with an aggressive challenge in the appellate court," said Otter. "I'm hopeful for a better outcome."

But Otter may want to take a good look around at his neighbors: On May 19, another federal judge threw out Oregon's same-sex marriage ban, marking the 13th legal victory for equality advocates. And on the same day, yet another federal judge ordered Utah officials to start recognizing more than 1,000 same-sex marriages that took place in that state after a judge overturned Utah's ban. The U.S. Supreme Court has since issued an emergency stay on that ruling.

"Optimism here in Idaho? I would say it was very high," said Walton, executive director at the Idaho Civic Engagement Project and the woman who planned the May 16 celebration on the courthouse steps.

Walton told Boise Weekly that, in 2011, she saw a collage of photographs of couples celebrating on the steps of Manhattan's City Hall after New York State became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage.

"There's a photo gallery on BuzzFeed and it was just so telling," Walton remembered. "You know, it's one thing to talk about marriage equality. It's something quite different to see the faces of couples who are married. I just had to make sure, that if something like that were to ever happen in Idaho, I had to be there. And I knew a lot of my friends felt the same way."

Indeed, a simple Facebook post went viral, prompting hundreds of partygoers to fill the Ada County Courthouse steps and hundreds more offering their well-wishes via social media.

BW readers would have readily recognized one of the celebrants: Madelynn Taylor (BW, News, "Idaho Says No to final Resting Place for Veteran and Spouse," April 23, 2014). BW chronicled the 74-year-old Taylor's dilemma of being refused the right to be interred along with her same-sex spouse at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery.

"She has the option of possibly waiting to see ... well, to see if things change," Dave Brasuell, chief administrator of the Idaho Veterans Affairs Commission, told BW in April.

And late in the day on May 20, the 9th Circuit agreed to a stay in Dale's ruling, meaning there won't be any same-sex marriages taking place in Idaho this summer. The 9th Circuit will hear arguments in the matter on an accelerated schedule.Opening briefs are due July 19; the court will hear the case beginning the week of Sept. 8 in San Francisco.

"We actually had a couple of requests for Mayor [Dave] Bieter to perform same-sex weddings, including two of the four couples that were plaintiffs in the case," said Adam Park, spokesman for the mayor. "So, yes the mayor will be performing same-sex weddings when, and if, it becomes legal in the state."

Bieter has performed approximately one wedding per month during his time in office--he's performed as few as three one year and as many as 15 in another year.

But it's the Ada County Courthouse that is marriage central: In 2013, the Ada County Recorder's Office processed 3,236 marriage licenses, or an average of 269 a month. It spikes quite a bit in summer months, with last July seeing 425 marriages.

But it will be Fall before any ruling from the 9th Circuit could be handed down, after the court deliberates on the matter beginning in early September.

"And once we can really watch those people get married, we'll definitely have another party," she said. "We'll throw that party, even if we have to plan it in 10 minutes. Believe me; we'll be there."

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