COEUR d'ALENE, IDAHO - Americans heard two rulings by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, both in support of gay marriage. The highest court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and shot down an attempt to revive California's same sex marriage ban. The decision has the nation, including Idaho divided, especially because Washington State is so close and allows same sex couples to get married.
In Washington State, gay marriage has been legal since November. In Idaho, it's still illegal. A recent national poll found 53% of people are in favor of same sex marriage, while 42% are opposed.
Several people in North Idaho spoke to KHQ Local News on Wednesday. Those in the LGBT community say they are excited and elated, even though they say there is a still a lot of work to be done.
One man who is a Chemistry professor at North Idaho College is openly gay and spoke about the conundrum living in a state that does not recognize gay marriage, and being so close to a state that does.
"I understand the perspective of the state, and the federal government wanting to give it to the state, but I'm hopeful for a time here in Idaho, where I can marry a partner, where the state of Idaho and the citizens around me will be able to recognize my relationship as equal to theirs," Jon Downing told KHQ.
On the other side of the argument, many religious groups in North Idaho are upset. Candlelight Christian Fellowship of Coeur d'Alene has been very publicly vocal regarding its views on gay rights, especially during the anti-discrimination ordinance discussion at City Hall in early June. They declined to interview on camera, but they told KHQ that "they are extremely disappointed with the court's decision."
But despite that opposition, John, like many others in LGBT community are hoping that Idaho will eventually allow same sex marriage as well as tax, pension and medical benefits.
"It's difficult to be in a room like that where they're talking about you. And they're talking about not giving you the same rights that they have. To not be discriminated against in the workplace for being straight, or being discriminated against for having a same sex partner. When someone's talking about you and who you love, and who loves you back, it's difficult to have them say: you're not the same as us," Gowning said.
Coeur d'Alene Councilman Dan Gookin is attempting to introduce same sex benefits for City of Coeur d'Alene employees. He told KHQ Local News Wednesday afternoon that he needs to ensure the city has the budget to do this before they continue going forward with this issue.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on two gay marriage cases will have no direct impact on Idaho's law banning same-sex marriage. In 2006, 63 percent of Idaho voters backed a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal union recognized by the state. Wasden says Idaho's constitutional provisions on marriage remain in place and he will continue enforcing the law. However, he said his staff is still reviewing the opinion to determine if the decision creates any conflicts.