BOISE -- Idaho's bar to gay marriage was challenged Friday by four same-sex couples in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Boise.
Two couples, married elsewhere, seek recognition of their status in the state, while the other two want to establish their right to wed. The plaintiffs, all women, contend the ban violates their federal constitutional rights.
"Like many other couples with a lifelong commitment, the unmarried plaintiffs are spouses in every sense, except that Idaho law will not allow them to marry," their attorneys said in a complaint filed Friday. "In fact, under Idaho law, solemnization of their commitment without a marriage license is a crime."
Idaho's constitution was amended in 2006 to state that only a marriage between a man and a woman is legally valid. The state is one of 34 to have some form of gay marriage prohibition in its constitution or state statutes.
Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia presently allow same-sex couples to wed. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he'll sign legislation passed in that state this week in a Nov. 20 ceremony at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Named as defendants in the Idaho lawsuit are Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, and Ada County Recorder Christopher Rich, whose office in Boise, the state capital, is accused of declining to issue marriage licenses to the unwed plaintiff couples.
"It would be premature to comment," Bob Cooper, a spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden, said Fridday in a phone interview, adding the defendants hadn't yet been served with the federal court complaint.
Plaintiffs Susan Latta, a professional artist, and Traci Ehlers, a small business owner, were married in California in 2008, according to the complaint. They have jointly raised two children and have two grandchildren.
Their co-plaintiffs are Lori and Sharene Watsen, who say they were wed in New York in 2011. While Sharene give birth to a son earlier this year, Lori's bid for adoptive rights was rejected by an Idaho state court judge in September, they allege.
Seeking permission to marry in state are Amber Beierle, a state historic site manager and Idaho National Guard veteran Rachael Robertson, who live in Boise. They're joined by deaf- child teacher Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, a massage therapist.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down that part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act limiting the U.S. goverment's recognition to only those unions of one man and one woman.