BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The federal government cannot force Idaho to change its definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the conservative Cornerstone Family Council of Idaho contends in a recent court filing.
The council rejected the idea that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act required Idaho to permit same-sex marriage or recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the council wrote in a brief in a case in which four couples are suing the state over Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court case narrowly involved the issuance of federal benefits to same-sex couples, the council contended in its amicus brief filed last week.
It “does not forbid a state like Idaho from preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
“To the contrary, the court’s repeated references to our federalist structure ... only serve to bolster the defense of Idaho’s Marriage Laws,” the council contended.
The power to define marriage and domestic relationships historically resides with individual states, the council said. Requiring Idaho to redefine marriage would “trample this traditional state power and contravene compelling interests in federalism, state self-determination and pluralism.”
Cornerstone requested that the court grant Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s motion for an immediate ruling in the case, while rejecting the plaintiff’s motion.
Four couples who are suing the state in federal court over Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage are asking a federal judge to rule in their favor without a trial, contending the facts of the case and recent federal court rulings elsewhere make it clear that Idaho’s marriage laws violate the Constitution.
Otter, a defendant in the case, also is seeking an immediate ruling, contending that states and not the federal government have the right to define marriage and that same-sex marriages would harm Idaho’s children.
Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.
The Idaho couples filed their lawsuit in November against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich. The couples are Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson.
Latta and Ehlers married in 2008 in California, and the Watsens married in 2011 in New York. Both couples have children and say Idaho wrongly treats Ehlers as a legal stranger to her grandchildren and requires Lori Watsen to obtain a new power of attorney every six months so she can have legal authority to consent to medical treatment for her son.
The other two couples have been denied marriage licenses in Idaho, though Beierle and Rachael Robertson own a house together and Altmayer and Shelia Robertson are raising their son together.
Otter contends that Idaho’s laws banning same-sex marriage are vital to the state’s goal of creating “stable, husband-wife unions for the benefit of their children.”
The women contend Otter’s stance has no basis in reality and say the state’s ban on gay marriage is nothing more than discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. After all, they argue, banning same-sex marriage and denying the children of same-sex couples the same legal protections given to children of married heterosexual couples does nothing to encourage heterosexual couples to procreate or become better parents.
The issue of equal rights for gay and transgender citizens has become a major issue in Idaho’s courts and Legislature over the past few years. Gay rights advocates have staged protests several times at the Idaho statehouse this year, urging lawmakers to add antidiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people and to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. Currently, Idaho requires same-sex couples married elsewhere to file their state tax returns as if they are single rather than married.