Case Summary & History
Case: Latta v. Otter
STATUS: Victory, Idaho
On November 8, 2013, four same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit in Boise challenging Idaho’s laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states.
The lawsuit argues that Idaho’s laws barring same-sex couples from marrying and prohibiting the state from respecting the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
The couples, all from Boise, include university instructors, a teacher of deaf children, and a military veteran who served with the Idaho National Guard in Iraq. Three of the couples are raising children together.
The couples are Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson. The couples are represented by Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham of Ferguson Durham, PLLC, Deanne Maynard and Marc Hearron of the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, LLP, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
On May 13, 2014, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale ordered the State of Idaho to allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize the marriages of couples who married in other states. The next day, Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit and filed motions asking the court to stay Judge Dale’s decision until the Ninth Circuit completes its review of the case. The Ninth Circuit granted the motions but ordered that the appeal be resolved on an expedited basis.
The Ninth Circuit heard the case on September 8, 2014. On October 7, 2014, the Ninth Circuit ruled 3-0 that Idaho’s and Nevada’s ban on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. A day later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy issued a temporary stay blocking same-sex couples in Idaho from getting married. On October 9, 2014, NCLR and co-counsel filed a response in the Supreme Court making the case for why marriages in Idaho should take place without further delay. The following day, the Supreme Court rejected the request by Idaho state officials, clearing the way for the Ninth Circuit to enter an order allowing marriages to begin. On October 13, 2014, the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay on marriage equality in Idaho. Same-sex couples began marrying in Idaho on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in NCLR’s Tennessee marriage case and cases from three other states affirming the freedom to marry in every state and U.S. territory.
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.