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Idaho's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional: judge

BOISE, Idaho -- Gay and lesbian couples in Idaho could start getting married as soon as Friday after a judge ruled the western state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote in her decision Tuesday evening that Idaho's laws barring same-sex marriage unconstitutionally deny gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry. Ten other federal district courts have issued similar rulings supporting gay marriage rights.

Dale said the state must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting at 9 a.m. Friday. Idaho, which has a large Mormon and evangelical Christian population, is one of the most conservative states in the U.S.

“The Plaintiffs are entitled to extraordinary remedies because of their extraordinary injuries,” Dale wrote, saying same-sex couples in Idaho have been denied the economic, emotional and spiritual benefits of marriage.

“Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love,” she wrote.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter already has said he intends to appeal the case, meaning an appellate court could still put the weddings on hold. The three-day delay in allowing weddings is apparently in response to a request from the governor.

Otter cited the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“In 2006, the people of Idaho exercised their fundamental right, reaffirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” he said in a statement. “Today's decision, while disappointing, is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said he would consult with the governor on the state's appeal.

Four Idaho couples in November filed the lawsuit against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich challenging the marriage ban. They are Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers; Lori and Sharene Watsen; Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer; and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson.

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