Less than 24 hours before county clerks could start issuing licenses for same-sex marriages, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called a timeout. The court granted the state's request for a temporary stay while it considers a longer stay pending appeal of this week's ruling overturning Idaho's ban on gay marriage.
When the court released its order shortly after noon Thursday, the state scrambled to ensure that all 44 counties knew not to issue any marriage licenses to gay couples at 9 a.m. Friday, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale's ruling striking down the 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage was to take effect.
Granting the stay averts a situation similar to Utah's. A federal judge's decision in December overturning that state's ban caught everyone off-guard. About 1,300 gay couples got married in the three weeks before a stay was imposed, leaving those marriages in legal limbo.
"I appreciate the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepping in to ensure Idaho will not have to endure the same kind of chaos and confusion that Utah faced," said Gov. Butch Otter, who along with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden appealed Dale's ruling. "Today's ruling stays the federal magistrate's order and maintains the status of marriage as defined by the Idaho Constitution - between one man and one woman."
Otter said the state is pursuing "an aggressive challenge in the appellate court" and he's "hopeful for a better outcome."
The 9th Circuit Court gave no indication how long it would take to make a permanent decision, according to the Attorney General's Office. And Idaho's case is one of seven in which states with overturned marriage bans have federal appeals; legal experts say they expect the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will have to sort it all out.
JOY WILL BE MISSING
A "marriage equality" party with donated cake and coffee planned for Friday at the Ada County Courthouse still will take place, although it won't be quite as enthusiastic and joyful a gathering, organizer Emily Walton said Thursday.
"It'll be more like a protest with cake," she said. "I think the joy of the party won't be there because this really is about celebrating with people who should be able to get married, and now they can't. ... It's just going to take a little more time."
CHANGE OF PLANS
Kiely and Jenna Prouty-Porter grew up in Southern Idaho and were married in New York two years ago. They planned to have an Idaho ceremony Friday, conducted by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. Instead, they'll get an early start on a trip out of town to see family members, Kiely Prouty-Porter said.
She said they are disappointed with Thursday's development, but there's a bright side, too.
"We felt like we were home for the first time in our lives. That's part of why I'm not crushed today, and why neither of us is crushed. Because we found out there are people like Judge Candy Dale in Idaho," Kiely said. "There really is something about having someone in power fighting for you ... a feeling that you just don't even know what that's going to be until you have it.
"As the little person or the person who's been sort of disadvantaged or whatever, you get used to that, and you find strength in other ways. But when someone higher than you actually stands up for you, whoa. It was a crazy feeling. So I think I'm still high on that, honestly."
Idaho's ban on gay marriage was approved by voters in 2006.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell