TWIN FALLS • The first gay couple in Twin Falls County to get a marriage license held their wedding reception on Saturday.
Surrounded by friends and family at their apartment in Twin Falls, Don and Clint Newlan, who have been a couple for more than eight years, wore matching black shorts and sneakers and white polo shirts with corsages pinned to them.
After everyone socialized outside for a while, it started to rain, and they gathered inside as Don, who has changed his last name from Moline, and Clint read their vows.
“You make me laugh. You make me happy. You make me feel alive,” Clint read.
Then, after their friend Judy Louise Buck sang “One Day at a Time,” they cut their cake, which had a rainbow design and flag on it with a statue of two men kissing.
Don proposed to Clint in the South Hills. He remembers they were wearing shorts, but there was still five feet of snow up in the hills. They actually got married for the first time a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t recognized in Idaho at the time.
“When they passed gay marriage, I was like, ‘Let’s get married for real,’” Don Newlan said.
The two got their marriage license here one morning in early October 2014 — also wearing matching khaki shorts and red T-shirts that day — after a federal appeals court struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage.
A few minutes later, the Twin Falls County Clerk’s office got a call informing them that the U.S. Supreme Court had put a temporary stay on gay marriages in Idaho as both sides hashed it out in the courts, and another couple that had been waiting was turned away.
The stay was lifted about a week later, and same-sex marriage has been allowed in Idaho since then. Don and Clint got legally married in February, but held off on the reception for better weather.
In late April, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in same-sex marriage cases from Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. The court is expected to rule this summer on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right nationwide, or on whether states have the right to decide whether to allow it.
Although Idaho is not part of the case, the outcome will affect Idaho and every other state where gay marriage is not allowed or is only allowed due to court rulings. Many court watchers expect it to be close — possibly a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.
Don Newlan said he has been following the case, via alerts he gets from the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign. He expects the judges to rule in favor of same-sex marriage’s being a constitutional right, given the large number of states where it has been allowed.
“I don’t see them knocking it out,” he said.
Idaho voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman in 2006, and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has said repeatedly that he wants this to stay in place. So what would happen to couples like the Newlans if the Supreme Court rules that the states have the power to define marriage?
“We can’t speculate on that,” said Kriss Bivens Cloyd, spokeswoman for the Idaho Attorney General’s office. “We’ll wait to hear what the Supreme Court decides, and then we’ll advise our clients at that time.”
Deborah Ferguson, one of the lawyers for the gay couples in the case that led to gay marriage being allowed in Idaho, said she expects the Supreme Court to rule in favor of gay marriage being a right.
“We’re really confident that we’ll get a good ruling,” she said.
If they don’t, Ferguson suspects Idaho would do something similar to what California did after voters passed a ballot proposition in 2008 re-banning gay marriage after a court had legalized it. Gay couples who had been married while it was legal were allowed to remain married, since, Ferguson said, it would end up being too much of a hassle to invalidate the marriages of people who already are married.
“I think the couples that have married would stay very much married,” she said.
Discrimination against gay people when it comes to housing, employment or services is legal in most of Idaho. About a dozen cities have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; Hailey became the latest to adopt one, in April. Ketchum has a similar ordinance, and Twin Falls forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation for city jobs.
Advocates have been lobbying lawmakers for about a decade for statewide protections and got a hearing on the bill this year. After several days of testimony, it failed in the House State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote, with many of its opponents saying they were worried about how it could impact religious people.
A few of the Republicans who voted to kill the law said they would be open to a compromise that included some religious protections, and some lawmakers from both parties did meet after the vote to try to hammer something out. Nothing came of their efforts during the session, but Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, an advocate for “Add the Words” legislation who was involved in the compromise talks, said last week that a few lawmakers would meet again in June to keep trying to work something out for next year.