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NCLR asks federal judge to strike down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban

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Last week, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed its motion for summary judgment in federal district court in Latta v. Otter, the challenge to the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The challenge was filed on behalf of four same-sex couples, who note in the new filing that “[t]here is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and Plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all claims raised in their First Amended Complaint.”

The couples are seeking declarations that the Idaho constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and statutory provisions preventing marriage equality and recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states violate Due Process and Equal Protection. They’re also seeking a permanent injunction against those provisions, preventing the state from denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples or state benefits for same-sex couples in existing marriages.

The accompanying memo in support of a ruling in their favor points out that Idaho falls within the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction. This likely means that the district court judge has to apply a heightened level of judicial scrutiny, because the Ninth Circuit recently addressed that issue in SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories.

After that decision came down, the attorneys general in Nevada and Oregon have declined to defend their same-sex marriage bans. Under heightened scrutiny, the burden shifts to the state defendants, which makes it a lot harder for the state: they have to rely on the reasons given for the law at the time in the legislative record, and they have to show that the reasons for the same-sex marriage ban are substantially related to an important government interest.

Even without applying heightened scrutiny, the filing argues, the ban and the state’s refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside the state still fail, because there isn’t a rational connection between the interests asserted by the state and the ban’s actual effects. They argue that even if “child rearing”, for example, is a legitimate government interest, banning same-sex marriage doesn’t further that interest. The same goes for “responsible procreation.”

The couples argue, additionally, that the ban violates Due Process because there is a fundamental right to marry, and same-sex couples can’t be excluded from that right. Because a fundamental right is implicated, strict scrutiny would apply to the state’s justifications for the ban. The couples point out that they’re not asking for a “new” right to “same-sex marriage” – they recognize there’s a fundamental right to marriage, and argue they can’t be constitutionally barred from that fundamental right.

The state will respond to the filing before the judge makes a decision.

The case is Latta v. Otter.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for these filings

For more information on Latta v. Otter from The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, click here.

14 Comments

  • 1. Pat  |  February 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Since any decision would likely be appealed to the 9th circuit, where a appeal (Sevcik v. Sandoval) is already fairly advanced, this seems like a waste of resources… Or am I missing something?

  • 2. KarlS  |  February 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I suspect it's a bit like a tug-of-war…every added hand is helpful to pull the rope. At least that's how it seems to me, no lawyer at all. shrug.

  • 3. Ragavendran  |  February 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Cases like this in other states in the 9th Circuit would provide an opportunity for adamant states to take their appeals beyond the 9th, up to SCOTUS – something that cannot happen to Sevcik v. Sandoval, since that case now has no defendants with standing to appeal.

  • 4. Ragavendran  |  February 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    More details about the upcoming schedule of this Idaho case can be found by going to https://ecf.idd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/PublicCalend… and selecting "Specific Case Schedule" and enter the case number "1:13-cv-482"

    The next motion hearing has been scheduled for May 5, 2014 at 9:30am.

  • 5. FYoung  |  February 27, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    "this seems like a waste of resources… Or am I missing something?"

    I'm not an expert, but I would think that starting this case now would have the effect of adding Idaho as a ME state several months earlier than if they had waited for the Sevcik appeal decision.

    Every state will count in the arithmetic we presume SCOTUS will use to decide whether it's time to declare that heightened scrutiny applies.

  • 6. Ken  |  February 27, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for that.

  • 7. Rick O.  |  February 27, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Plus it's only fair to keep up the local pressure and awareness in the #2 Mormon state. Lead counsel for Utah is from Boise.

  • 8. Zack12  |  February 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    One point about the 9th circuit, there ARE some bigoted judges on there, so a win shouldn't be considered a solid lock.
    All it takes is the wrong combo of judges to get the case for us to get denied. So let's not celebrate just yet.

  • 9. Stefan  |  February 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    It would be near impossible for that to happen, since Democrats outnumber Republicans 2:1. The only one we need to be concerned about is O' Scannlan.

  • 10. JayJonson  |  February 28, 2014 at 6:59 am

    We also need to be concerned about N. Randy Smith, one of the most conservative judges in the circuit, who dissented from the Ninth Circuit's ruling on Proposition 8. His dissent was weak and vacuous, but it prevented the decision by Judge Reinhardt from being unanimous. I believe that he is a Mormon.

  • 11. Zack12  |  February 28, 2014 at 8:32 am

    That is my fear in the 10th circuit as well with Scott Matheson Jr. He is a mormon as well and he's anything like his brother Jim, who is retiring from congress this year we'll be in trouble.
    Jim Matheson was a Blue Dog who never met an anti-gay bill he didn't like, I suspect his brother is much the same.
    And anyone appointed by Bush Jr should be suspect. He and others made it a point to ensure far right candidates in the mold of Scalia and Alito got on the bench.

  • 12. Steve  |  February 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Mormon judges can't be trusted. The ones who upheld the Hawaii and Nevada bans at the district court level were Mormons too. The Nevada decision in particular was obviously influenced by his religious views.

  • 13. Zack12  |  February 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Indeed it was. He didn't even bother to hide his contempt for the plantiffs during the hearing.
    Bottom line, we don't want Mormons anywhere near this.

  • 14. Equality On TrialIdaho sa&hellip  |  May 14, 2014 at 8:13 am

    […] judge struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban yesterday in Latta v. Otter. The case was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and a local law firm, representing four […]

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