Justice Kennedy puts brakes on gay marriage in Idaho

Justice Kennedy puts brakes on gay marriage in Idaho
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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has put a temporary block on gay nuptials in Idaho, giving same-sex marriage supporters until Thursday afternoon to respond after the state’s Republican governor called for a stay.

Kennedy’s order came hours before Idaho was to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Wednesday morning under a federal court ruling overturning a ban in the state on same-sex marriage. 


Lawyers for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) filed an emergency request seeking to halt the practice while the case continues to work its way through the courts. 

“Each same-sex marriage performed will be an affront to the interests of the State and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels,” attorneys for the state wrote in the eleventh-hour plea Wednesday. 

A panel of judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld gay marriage in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, but the state is seeking review “en banc,” by the full court.

The lawyers argued that if allowed to go forward, same-sex marriages could present a bureaucratic nightmare if Idaho’s ban is ultimately upheld.  

“A stay is also necessary to minimize the enormous disruption to the State and its citizens of potentially having to ‘unwind’ hundreds of same-sex marriages should this Court ultimately conclude, as the Governor strongly maintains, that the Ninth Circuit’s decision and mandate exceed its constitutional authority,” the state argued. 

The action in Idaho comes two days after the Supreme Court sent shockwaves throughout the legal world by declining to take any of seven cases pending before the court on state same-sex marriage battles. 

Idaho was not among them, and the state argues its case is narrower in scope than the others, and is thus more likely to be granted review at the Supreme Court. 

However, the high court’s refusal to hear cases involving Indiana, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma and Wisconsin suggests to court watchers that the justices are waiting for a “circuit split,” in which the federal appeals courts disagree on the issue. 

To date, each circuit has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, a streak that observers believe is likely to remain unbroken in the San Francisco-based and famously liberal Ninth Circuit.