SALT LAKE CITY -- While Utah waits for a ruling on same sex marriage, other states are heading to court for the same fight.
So far, 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, allow same sex marriage. As of Tuesday evening, Idaho became the 19th state.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional.
“Idaho’s marriage laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so,” Dale wrote. “These laws do not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny.”
The order will take effect Friday morning at 9 a.m.
“Arkansas, Michigan, Utah and now Idaho are getting the freedom to marry for gay lesbian citizens and it’s truly a historic time to be alive,” said Nicole Christensen of Utah Unites for Marriage, a proponent of same-sex marriage.
State and federal courts across the country are currently hearing lawsuits that challenge a state’s ban on gay marriage. Christensen believes the recent rulings are a positive indicator for what could happen in Utah.
“As we go into the 10th Circuit ruling that is going to happen any day now I think the momentum is just starting to build even stronger. And it absolutely has a profound impact,” Christensen said. “And the ruling today, it feels great.”
But advocates for traditional marriage in Utah feel the rulings are not representing the opinion of the majority of state voters.
“It’s disappointing that the court would make a ruling that is so fundamentally at odds with our legal standards,” said Bill Duncan, director of the Center for Family and Society at the Sutherland Institute.
The findings of the court are too far reaching, according to Duncan, who is hopeful the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of what he believes most Utahns want.
“It is very concerning because there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires the states to change their definition of marriage,” Duncan said. “So, for federal judges, even a dozen or so of them, to say that the Constitution actually does require that is really overreaching.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said he plans to appeal the case, which could mean an appellate court stalls any weddings from taking place in the state.
The plaintiffs in the Idaho case included four same-sex couples. Two of the couples had married in other states where gay marriage is legal, and two others had children born while they were together.
“Idaho’s marriage laws fail to advance the state’s interest because they withhold legal, financial and social benefits from the very group they purportedly protect — children,” Dale said in her ruling.
The judge also found the state’s argument that the ban on gay marriage was in the name of “religious liberty” to be “myopic.”
“No doubt many faiths around the world and in Idaho have longstanding traditions of man-woman marriage rooted in scripture,” Dale said. “But not all religions share the view that opposite-sex marriage is a theological imperative.”