Cases & Advocacy

Latta v. Otter

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: 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 argued 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 violated the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The couples, all from Boise, included university instructors, a teacher of deaf children, and a military veteran who served with the Idaho National Guard in Iraq. Three of the couples were raising children together.

The couples were Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson. The couples were 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 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 completed 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 violated 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 for a stay 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.