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Family & Relationships

Idaho Couples Ask Federal Court to Declare State’s Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

(Boise, ID, February 19, 2014)—Late Tuesday, four couples suing the State of Idaho asked a federal court to declare unconstitutional Idaho’s refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry or to recognize their existing marriages. In their request, the couples argue that Idaho’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. The motion is scheduled to be heard by Chief United States Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale on May 5, 2014 in Boise.

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.

The couples are Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, and Lori and Sharene Watsen, who married in other states and want Idaho to recognize their marriages, and Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, who seek to get married. The couples are represented by Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

The papers filed by the couples on Tuesday assert that Idaho’s marriage ban cannot stand in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last June that the federal government’s discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the federal constitutional requirements of equal protection and due process.    

The couples’ papers note that every federal court to consider the issue since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. This includes federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Said attorney Ferguson: “Our clients have built lives and homes together, raised children and cared for grandchildren, and contributed to their communities and their country. They are simply asking that the state treat them as it would treat any other family.”

Added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “The law should treat all families fairly. By barring same-sex couples from marrying, Idaho’s laws prevent these couples from taking care of one another and having the basic protections that other families are able to take for granted.”

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.

Learn more about the case.

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