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Gay couples cheer as same-sex unions come to conservative stronghold Idaho

10/15/2014 12:28 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST
BOISE, Idaho - Gay couples started to marry in one of the most conservative states in the nation Wednesday as more than 100 same-sex couples gathered early at the Boise courthouse and counted down the seconds before the clerk's office opened.

The couples cheered and streamed inside at 9 a.m. as Idaho became the latest state to recognize gay marriages in a burst of court rulings nationwide.

"It's been such a long time coming," Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said. "It's a historic day for Boise and Idaho."

Jordan officiated the marriages of four of the eight women who sued over Idaho's gay marriage ban and were the first to get licenses in the state's most-populous county.

A crowd sang out "here comes the brides" as Rachael and Amber Beierle and Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer headed toward City Hall.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden didn't immediately issue new statements, but both Republicans had fought to maintain the state's gay marriage ban, saying it was a matter of state's rights and the will of voters.

The marriages came a day after Otter and Wasden ended their opposition to a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that ordered the state to allow gay couples to wed. They said they had done all they could to fight the case in court, but Otter reaffirmed his support late Tuesday for Idaho's 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

"I'm not going to give up on it," he said. "I'm going to keep on defending it."

Idaho has become known for its conservative politics as Republicans control every statewide and congressional elected office and have an overwhelming majority in the state Legislature. This year's Republican gubernatorial field featured ultra-conservative candidates, including one who legally changed his name to "Pro-Life."

Robertson said she and her new wife had worried about resistance, but were surprised to receive nothing but support since filing their lawsuit nearly a year ago.

"People see us for us first. They don't go 'Oh, that gay couple.' They say, 'Oh, it's Sheila and Andrea,'" Robertson said. "Really, we're just normal people. We pay our taxes, we go to work. Today we got married."

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