Friday, October 10, 2014

County in limbo on same-sex marriage

State still seeks to defend prohibition

Express Staff Writer

    As of Thursday morning, same-sex couples could not obtain a marriage license in Blaine County.
    County Clerk JoLynn Drage said one same-sex couple had inquired Tuesday about obtaining a license.
    “We told them we didn’t have firm direction, and until we do, we can’t change our position,” Drage said.
    The county’s position is consistent with that of the state as a whole.
    On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down Idaho’s and Nevada’s bans on gay marriage. The decision came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to let stand lower court rulings that overturned same-sex marriage bans in five other states. The 9th Circuit order was to go into effect immediately.
    But on Wednesday, following a request from Gov. Butch Otter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily blocked implementation of the ruling. Kennedy is the justice in charge of emergency petitions from within the 9th Circuit, which includes Idaho and eight other Western states.
    “I just received a call from the Attorney General that Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a stay in the same-sex marriage case,” Idaho Association of Counties Executive Director Daniel Chadwick stated in an email Wednesday to the state’s county clerks. “Therefore, no marriage licenses are to be issued until a formal communication comes from the Idaho Attorney General.”
    In an order issued Wednesday, the 9th Circuit stated that it was recalling its mandate “pending further order of this court or the Supreme Court.”
    In a news release issued the same day, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden stated, “I appreciate the fact that Associate Justice Kennedy has given the state of Idaho time to digest the decision of the appeals court and plot a clear legal strategy forward. I continue to take seriously my responsibility of defending the Idaho Constitution and the policy choices made by voters on the question of marriage.”
    In 2006, Idaho voters approved an amendment to the state’s Constitution limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.
    Wasden stated that he intends to file a motion asking for an “en banc” hearing with the appeals court, which asks that the decision be reviewed by a panel of 11 judges. The decision striking down Idaho’s gay marriage ban was made by three judges.
    Attorney General’s Office spokesman Todd Dvorak said the state has 14 days from the date of the decision to file for an en banc hearing. He said there is no set time for the court to rule on the motion.
    “We’re at the mercy of the court,” he said.
    In a motion filed Wednesday for a stay of the 9th Circuit’s ruling, Otter told the court that if the state’s request for an en banc ruling fails, he may appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The motion contended that the Idaho case presents somewhat different legal issues than did the cases that the Supreme Court declined to hear Monday.

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