Breif history of the fight for same-sex marriages in Idaho


The fate of same-sex marriage is temporary unknown (or all-but-officially-known) in Idaho as the state continues to fight to uphold the state’s constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. The state was granted a stay by the SCOTUS, which has requested to hear from the plaintiffs in the case before moving forward. That deadline was today. Editor’s note: this blog was originally posted on October 9, 2014 and was edited on October 20.

Below is a quick look back at the history of same-sex marriages in Idaho and across the country. It is not intended to be all-exclusive. A more complete overview can be found here, which was used heavily in creating the timeline below.

Early 1970’s: From 1972-74, the courts blocked challenges to same-sex couples seeing to get married. In Baker v. Nelson, the Supreme Court dismissed a case out of Minnesota that affirmed the right for clerks to refuse to issue gay couples a marriage license in 1972. The trial court and state supreme court also dismissed their claim. Court of Appeals courts reached the same conclusion in 1973 in Kentucky and 1974 in Washington. Meanwhile, Maryland became the first state to ban same-sex marriage with a statute in 1973.

Hawaii, 1993: In Baehr v. Lewin, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated the state constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.  The ruling meant that if the state couldn’t show sufficient justification for denying same-sex couples the right to get married, the ban would be overturned. Hawaii would become a key state in the fight for same-sex marriage.

Idaho, January 1, 1996: Idaho bans common law marriages.

September 21, 1996: President Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The act also deprived same-sex couples of the more than 1,100 federally recognized benefits of marriage.

November 1998: Voters in Hawaii and Alaska amend their state constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage in their respective states. Hawaii’s voters prevented the courts from ending the exclusion of the marriages while Alaska’s voters restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. A total of 29 states would follow suit by amending their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriages.

December 1999: The Hawaii Supreme Court, bound by the new restrictive constitutional amendment, dismisses the couples’ challenge and continues to deny marriage to same-sex couples.

Vermont: 1999/2000: The Vermont Supreme Court rules in Baker v. State of Vermont that same-sex couples must be treated equally to opposite-sex married couples. The state legislature creates civil unions, which affords couples many of the same rights and protections as marriage, but not as many as same-sex couple marriage. Other states would also create civil unions to give same-sex couples some or all of the benefits of marriage.

Massachusetts 2003/2004: In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that the state constitution requires the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The court ruled three months later that marriage, not civil unions, was the only union that sufficiently protected same-sex couples and families. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

California, 2005/2007: In 2005, the California legislature became the first state legislature to pass a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed that bill and did so again when the legislature passed the bill again in 2007.

Idaho, November 2006: Idaho voters amend the constitution to state:  “MARRIAGE. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.   Six other states passed similar constitution amendments the same day while Arizona became the first state to reject such an amendment to its constitution.

California May 15, 2008: The California Supreme Court holds that a state statute excluding same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples start getting married on June 16 as an initiative to overturn the court ruling, known as Proposition 8, qualifies for the ballot that November. Voters approved that initiative.  The state supreme court ruled in May 2009 that marriages that occurred during those four months would be remain valid.

Connecticut October 2008: The Connecticut Supreme Court holds same-sex couples have the right to get married in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. The law converted civil unions in the state into marriages.

2009:  The Iowa Supreme Court decides Varnum v. Brien, and rules unanimously for same-sex marriage. Vermont’s legislature overrides a veto from the state’s governor to allow same-sex marriages to occur in Vermont. Legislatures in Nevada and Wisconsin approve domestic partnership bills. New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. allow same-sex marriages. Maine’s governor signs a bill to allow same-sex marriages, which was later overturned by voters.

July 2010: A U.S. District Court judge rules that DOMA’s Section 3, which restricts marriage to different-sex couples, is unconstitutional.

California August 2010: The U.S. District Court of Northern California declares Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses. The case is appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

February 23, 2011:  President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announce his administration will no longer defend DOMA.

February 2012: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the U.S. District Court of Northern California’s holding that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. The Court later denies a petition for an en banc hearing, requesting that 11 judges from the Court hear the case.

May 2012: President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting president in the United States to publicly announce support for same-sex marriage.

New York June 2012:  U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones finds the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in Windsor v. United States. Judge Jones was the fifth federal judge to rule that DOMA’s Section 3 violates the U.S. Constitution.

November 2012: Three states vote to end their exclusion of same-sex marriage while voters in Minnesota reject a constitution amendment that would have done the same.

December 2012: The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear two marriage cases at the federal level: Windsor v. United States, challenging DOMA, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California’s Proposition 8.  Oral arguments were March 26-27, 2013.

2013: Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois pass laws permitting same-sex marriages. New Mexico’s supreme court affirms the right for same-sex couples to marry.

June 2013: The Supreme Court of the United States overturns Section 3 of DOMA and dismisses the challenge to Proposition 8, permitting same-sex marriages to occur in California.

December 20, 2013:  A district court judge holds that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in Utah are unconstitutional. Same-sex couples start to marry later that day. The SCOTUS issued a stay on January 6 so that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals can hear the case. 1,300 couples married during that time. The Federal government recognizes the marriages while the state of Utah said that the state will not.

2014: District judges in Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Florida rule in favor of same-sex marriages. Those rulings were all appealed while district judges in Kentucky and Ohio held that the state had to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. State judges in Arkansas, Colorado and Florida issued rulings permitting same-sex marriages to occur in their state. These ruling were also appealed. A district judge in Louisiana was the only district judge to rule against same-sex marriage. That case is also under appeal.

Idaho, May 2014: Four same-sex couples, all females, challenged Idaho’s ban as being unconstitutional. Two couples asked the state to recognize their marriages performed in other states while the other two couples sought the right to get married in Idaho.

Idaho, May 2014: U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale strikes down the Idaho’s ban on same-sex couples from marrying. The 9th Circuit issues a stay before the decision can take effect. The state appeals to that court.

June 25, 2014: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the Utah court’s ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert, agreeing that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional. The ruling is put on hold to let the state seek certiorari at the United States Supreme Court. The court would also rule to affirm the freedom to marry in Oklahoma for the same reasoning a month later.

July 2014: The United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit becomes the second federal appellate court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage when it upholds the trial court ruling in Virginia’s Bostic v. Schaefer. The 7th circuit would also uphold same-sex marriage in September.

September 2014: 9th Circuit hears argument on Idaho’s case.

October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review in five different marriage cases, which meant the rulings at the Court of Appeals level would stand. Same-sex marriage was directly affirmed in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin while clearing the way for them to occur in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.  A total of 30 states now allow, or will soon allow, same-sex marriages.

October 7, 2014: The 9th Circuit upholds Idaho district court judge Candy Dale’s ruling and a similar one in Nevada, effectively granting same-sex marriages to both states.

October 8, 2014: Moments before same-sex marriage is expected to start occurring in Idaho, the SCOTUS issued a stay on behalf of the State of Idaho, putting an end to same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada before they can get started. The SCOTUS later clarified its ruling, applying it only to Idaho. The stay is temporary, with a response due from the plaintiffs by October 9. The stay was the SCOTUS’s first action to a state’s ban.  One couple in Idaho was able to get a marriage license  before the stay was put in place in Twin Falls.

October 10, 2014: The SCOTUS denies the governor’s request to delay same-sex marriages from being performed while he continues to appeal.  Licensed are issued to same-sex couples in Latah county.

October 13, 2014: The Ninth Circuit announces Idaho’s stay banning same-sex marriage will be lifted at 10 a.m. on October 15. The state’s attorney general did not object to the stay being lifted while the governor does.

October 15, 2014: This happens.