LAS VEGAS >> A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Wednesday temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada, dashing plans in Las Vegas to start performing gay nuptials in the self-proclaimed marriage capital of the world.
Nevada and Idaho had joined the growing number of states where same-sex marriage is legal when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the gay marriage bans in both states.
In Las Vegas, the Marriage License Bureau had been expected to issue licenses for same-sex couples starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, but Clark County Clerk Diane Alba told The Associated Press that it’s clear, at least for now, that she can’t issue gender-neutral marriage licenses after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s order temporarily halting gay marriage.
Kennedy’s order came a little more than an hour after Idaho on Wednesday filed an emergency request for an immediate stay. The state’s request said that without a stay, state and county officials would have been required to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday morning.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said Wednesday that he was glad Kennedy acted quickly.
“I’m pleased that Justice Kennedy has given us the opportunity to make our case in a way that helps avoid the confusion some other states have faced,” Otter said. “I intend to be faithful to my oath of office and keep working to protect the Idaho Constitution and the mandate of Idaho voters in support of traditional marriage.”
The delay could last just a few days. Kennedy’s order requested a response from the plaintiffs involved in Idaho’s gay marriage lawsuit by the end of Thursday.
The full court almost certainly would weigh in to extend the delay much beyond the weekend. That has been the justices’ practice in other cases in which a single justice initially blocked a ruling from taking effect.
Las Vegas had been preparing for gay weddings. The county’s marriage licenses went gender-neutral a couple weeks ago, just in case. Chapels had photographers practice with models to see how they might best shoot two brides in gowns.
In its decision Tuesday about Nevada and Idaho’s gay marriage bans, 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws treating people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.
That decision came a day after the Supreme Court turned away state appeals, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in several more states, bringing the U.S. total to 30.
The original Nevada lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, was filed in April 2012 on behalf of eight couples in the state. It said the 2002 state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples in Nevada the same rights, dignity and security that other married couples enjoy.
In Idaho, Sue Latta, with Traci Ehlers, sued the state last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban.
Associated Press reporters Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Rebecca Boone and Kimberlee Kruesi in Boise and Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.