Federal appeals court puts Idaho gay marriages on hold

Federal appeals court puts Idaho gay marriages on hold
File Photo (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho residents planning to gather at courthouses across the state to celebrate same-sex marriages saw their plans put on hold Thursday by a federal appeals court.

Idaho's gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Candy Dale said the law unconstitutionally denied gay and lesbian residents their fundamental right to marry. Dale said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting Friday morning.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay while it considers whether a longer stay is needed. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden both asked that Dale's ruling be placed on hold while they appeal.

The appellate court ruling might put a halt to plans for a "Party for Marriage Equality" scheduled for Friday morning at the Ada County Courthouse. Gay rights advocates were arranging the event.

Several Idaho residents who are ordained had offered to officiate weddings for free, and some photographers had offered free wedding photos to same-sex couples. Other residents pledged on social media sites to cover the $30 marriage license fee for gay and lesbian couples.

Dale's ruling ending the ban came in response to a lawsuit against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich brought by four same-sex couples. The judge said the ban unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry, and wrongly stigmatizes their families.

In a written statement, Otter said he appreciated the temporary stay, which he said will help avoid chaos and uncertainty.

"Meanwhile, I am proceeding with an aggressive challenge in the appellate court," Otter said.

So far, gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.