Idaho AG’s Office Reacts to DOMA Ruling from Federal Judge

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com July 9, 2010

U.S District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled Thursday that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

Enacted in 1996 DOMA defines “marriage” and “spouse,” for purposes of federal law, to include only the union of one man and one woman.

The Massachusetts plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples and three widowers, claimed that because of DOMA, their families were denied critically important rights and protections that interfered with the state’s authority to regulate marriage.

Massachusetts Attorney General Spokeswoman, Amie Breton, told Boise Weekly the decision applies only to Massachusetts and any appeals would be up to the Obama administration.

“Because there was no stay in the law suit,” said Breton, “starting today immediately effective same-sex wedded couples in Massachusetts are eligible for federal benefits. That means this decision is binding for the federal agencies.”

For states like Idaho with constitutional bans, the Massachusetts decision appears to have no bearing.

Idaho Attorney General spokesperson, Bob Cooper said his office has not yet seen the decision but based on news accounts said:
“On its face it would appear this is not going to have any impact on the state of the law in Idaho. The decision is not inconsistent with the Idaho constitutional provision in which the state has defined marriage. From that perspective, it wouldn’t matter what a particular state’s definition of marriage is this ruling would uphold the authority of the states to define marriage.”

Tauro stated: “There are at least, a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor.”

Same-sex couples legally married or not, except in Massachusetts, are denied the right to file joint tax returns, claim Social Security survivor benefits, take family medical leave, as well as take gift and estate tax exemptions, have joint workplace health care and collect a spouse’s retirement.

“The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid,” wrote Judge Tauro.

Will Prop. 8 Decision Affect Idaho LGBT Community?

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com June 30, 2010

Both civil rights advocates and religious conservatives are waiting in anticipation of Federal Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision in California’s Proposition 8 landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case.

Filed over a year ago, the January trial challenged the constitutionality of the voter-initiative that banned same-sex marriage by just 52 percent of the popular vote in the November 2008 election.

Either way Walker decides, it’s likely to spark outrage. Should the decision go the way of the plaintiffs and Prop. 8 is overturned, many wonder how that will affect states like Idaho with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. The consensus is there is likely to be a long court battle before we have a final answer.

Idaho Attorney General’s office spokesperson, Bob Cooper said,”It’s anticipated that it will be appealed both to the Ninth Circuit and to the Supreme Court regardless of which way it goes, so it’s really impossible to speculate on what impact, if any, it would have on Idaho. It’s going to depend on where it becomes a question of settled law and what the decision is.

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ACLU of Idaho executive director, Monica Hopkins concurred. “It is difficult to speculate on these legal issues. However if Prop 8 is struck down we may see the issue before the Supreme Court. Until the legal question is solved by the courts we have no way of knowing how this may affect the Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the non-profit organization funding the plaintiffs and assembled the legal team lead by Theodore Olson and David Boies.

Spokesperson Robb Yusef told BW, “We are eagerly waiting to see how the court will rule and trust the court will make the right decision. Either way the court rules the other side will appeal this to the circuit court and then we expect this to be appealed to the Supreme Court. We have committed to take this case all the way because we believe that peoples fundamental rights need to be guaranteed once and for all.”

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The California Supreme Court ruled May 15, 2008, in a 4-3 decision that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage license for gays and lesbians began being issued June 1, 2008. Until the passage of Prop 8, 18,000 same-sex couples have been legally married. Thus far, efforts to invalidate those marriages have been unsuccessful and the outcome of this case will not affect them.

Boise Weekly’s requests for comment from Protect Marriage, the organization leading the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign, have not been returned.

Protect Marriage received $40 million in donations from all over the county. Of that sum, $22 million was from members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. At least $419,000 came from Idahoans, with the largest donation of $100,000 coming from Belinda VanderSloot, the wife of Idaho Falls conservative millionaire and Melaleuca CEO Frank L. VanderSloot.