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Boise • A federal magistrate judge Wednesday refused to put gay marriages in Idaho on hold pending an appeal from the state's governor.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale said in her decision that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's appeal is unlikely to succeed, so there's no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying Friday.
Provo resident Gary Watts, whose daughter is among the plaintiffs, was thrilled when he heard the news.
His daughter Lori Watsen and her wife, who has a daughter of her own through artificial insemination, married in New York. Watsen has tried to adopt her wife's daughter, but was unable to because of the ban.
"There are lots of people in Utah who feel gay parents are not capable of being good parents," said Watts, who pointed out that his gay son has three and his daughter can now have one. "They're terrific, and the kids are just great."
Watts, a former Mormon, is a board member of Family Fellowship, a group that supports the family and friends of gay Mormons. Watts and his wife, Millie Watts, have been involved with the group for more than a decade.
"It's time for people of Utah and Idaho," he said, "to see that discrimination has been taking place."
Watsen is looking forward to becoming a mother, legally, to her wife's son, who turns 1 on Sunday. She said that she wants him to be as proud of his parents as she is of her own.
"We are thrilled… this is a big, important day," Watsen said.
Dale noted she already found the governor's arguments lacked legal merit when she struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday evening. The judge said allowing Idaho to continue enforcing its laws against same-sex marriage would irreparably harm the four couples who sued, along with other gay couples.
"Nor does the public interest favor preserving a status quo that deprives individuals of their constitutional rights," Dale wrote. "The court finds a stay pending appeal is not warranted."
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden already is working on the state's appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Wasden's spokesman Todd Dvorak said Wednesday morning.
Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Otter said in a statement issued Tuesday night that Dale's ruling overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban was disappointing, but it was just one step in a long battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dale's decision ending the ban came in response to a lawsuit against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich brought by four Idaho same-sex couples. The judge said the ban unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Organization for Marriage cannot defend that state's ban on same-sex marriage after the state attorney general refused to do so. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the group's motion to intervene.
The decision paves the way for a ruling on the constitutionality of Oregon's same-sex marriage ban, which could come at any time.
Salt Lake Tribune Reporter Michael McFall contributed to this story.