Idaho couples urge federal court to strike down gay marriage ban
BOISE, Idaho — A federal district court today heard oral argument on a motion filed by four same-sex couples challenging Idaho’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage and refusing to recognize their existing marriages.
The couples asked the court to strike down Idaho’s marriage ban and order the state to allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize the marriages of couples who married in other states.
The couples argue that Idaho’s ban on marriage equality cannot stand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. The couples’ motion filed in February notes that every court to consider these federal constitutional claims since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, including federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The couples are Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, and Lori and Sharene Watsen, who are legally married and are asking Idaho to recognize their marriages, and Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, who seek to marry. The couples are represented by Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Ferguson argued before the court on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Said Ferguson: “This case is about one of the most basic principles in our constitutional system — the right of every person to be treated fairly and equally under the law. The couples in this case simply want the same opportunities to protect themselves and their children that other Idaho families enjoy. We look forward to the day when Idaho law supports and respects all families, and when the protections of marriage are available to committed couples regardless of their gender.”
Added Altmayer: “We have built our life and family together, and want to have the opportunity to get married in our home state, where our relationship will be recognized and where we will have the same security that any other family enjoys. We want our young son to grow up knowing that his family is accepted and valued by our home state.”
More about the plaintiffs
Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers
Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, of Boise, have been together for 10 years and were married in California in 2008. Sue is an accomplished professional artist and adjunct professor at Boise State University. She has been deeply involved in the arts community in Boise, including serving as a member of the Mayor’s Task Force to revitalize the Boise Visual Chronicle and on Boise State University’s Art Advisory Board. Traci is a co-owner of a longstanding local small business. Sue has adult children that Traci has co-parented, and two grandchildren.
Lori and Sharene Watsen
Lori and Sharene Watsen, of Boise, have been together for four years and were married in New York in 2011. Lori is a licensed clinical social worker and associate field director for Boise State University’s School of Social Work. Sharene is a physician assistant with a local medical specialty group. Both Sharene and Lori have completed their master’s degrees. They have an infant, and they are seeking the freedom to marry to ensure that they both can be recognized as spouses and legal parents and provide their child with as much legal security and protection as possible.
Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer
Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer have been together for 16 years and reside in Boise. Shelia is a teacher of deaf children and a nationally certified sign language interpreter. Andrea is a certified massage therapist with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences. They have one child, a 4-year-old son. On November 6, 2013, they applied for a marriage license at the Ada County Recorder’s Office in Boise and were rejected because they are a same-sex couple.
Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson
Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson have been together for three years and reside in Boise. Amber is an education specialist with her master’s degree and manager of a state historic site. Rachael manages a commercial supply warehouse and is a veteran of the Idaho Army National Guard, with five years of service. Rachael served a tour of duty in Iraq and was awarded a combat medal, as well as a soldier good conduct medal. On November 6, 2013, the couple applied for a marriage license at the Ada County Recorder’s Office in Boise and were rejected because they are a same-sex couple.