Same-sex couples in Idaho celebrate a big win for marriage in the Gem State

On May 13, 2014 U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, a federal judge in Idaho, ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down the state’s discriminatory constitutional amendment that bans same-sex couples from marriage. The victory was in Latta v. Otter, the lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights last fall. Read more about the win here.

It's been an amazing few months for marriage - and across the country, same-sex couples are rejoicing in the reality that it's time for marriage nationwide. The situation is no different in Idaho, where gay and lesbian couples are sharing their stories and celebrating the big win. 

Meet just a few of the amazing couples celebrating this huge step forward for marriage in the Gem State (and if you're an Idaho couple and want to share your story with us, just CLICK HERE):

Michelle Forsmo & Christina Shadid • Kuna

After being together for nearly 24 years and adopting five amazing children, Michelle and Christina know that they are ready for the freedom to marry - and that, at last, that amazing feeling of being legally respected by their home state is in reach.

The women met while working together in Arizona in 1986, and they built a strong friendship over the next few years. By 1990, the two were dating and had moved away together to Idaho - and they've been there ever since. 

Over the years, they struggled with pregnancy several times before pursuing adoption - and after much waiting and what felt like reams of paperwork, they were approved to be matched with children who needed a home. Michelle, after hours and hours of looking through adoption sites, found a great pair of siblings to adopt - and after she and Christina were matched with the family, they learned that the mother had given birth to a third. 

They were ready for the experience - "In searching for one child, we ended up with three," Michelle explained, looking fondly back at the start of their new life, beginning in 2003, when the women brought the children home. The next year, they brought home a fourth children, and by the end of 2004, they had four children, all, coincidentally, with names beginning with J: Jessy, Jayden, Janelle, and Jordan.

"We thought we were done building our family," Michelle continued, "But in 2013 our oldest daughter’s best friend got kicked out of his house because his mother found out he was gay. He moved in with us, and a year and a half later he is still here and we are in the process of adopting him."

On May 21, Michelle and Christina will celebrate their 24th anniversary with their amazing and beautiful family - and they hope to be able to celebrate with a marriage license in hand from the great state of Idaho. 

"We want to be married," Michelle said. "We want the legal recognition and the legal protections that marriage gives. We love each other. We are raising 5 kids together. We are a family."

Natalie Goldthorpe & Sharon Kierulf • Boise

For the past three months, Natalie and Sharon have been living the life of an engaged couple, happily in love: Natalie proposed on February 8 of this year while the two were on vacation in Jamaica. "It was the best and most terrifying moment in my life," Natalie said. "And luckily, after all was said and done, she said yes in front of hundreds of strangers in a foreign country at sunset."

"Having the freedom to marry in not only Idaho but every state means maybe another child like me wont have to feel left behind."

The two have a long engagement planned - with arrangements set for a destination wedding in the Florida Keys (where Sharon's family lives) in 2016. But when they return to their home state of Idaho, they hope that the state respects their marriage - and that they can continue building their lives together in the Gem State.

"The freedom to marry my fiancé would be my dream come true," Natalie said. "Sharon and I plan on having children, and I want them to know that their parents are legally married and that their home is protected by law."

She added, "The freedom to marry in Idaho matters to me because all of my life I have felt like an outcast. Having the freedom to marry in not only Idaho but every state means maybe another child like me wont have to feel left behind, out casted, persecuted or shunned in the eyes of the law."

Rebecca Rod & Theresa Beaver • Moscow

Rebecca and Theresa have been together for almost 23 years, after meeting at a small bookstore art gallery in 1991 in Moscow, where Rebecca was involved in an art show with some pottery that she had made. They became fast friends, and not too soon after, they were dating. They eventually moved in together, and they have been in love ever since.

The next year, in 1992, they began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse in Moscow, and by 1996, they were ready to declare their commitment to each other. Their reverend married them in front of 150 friends, family members, and fellow church members. 

"We both still say that was the best day of our lives," Rebecca said.

In 2008, the couple legally married in San Diego, California, and then married again in Canada in 2011. But despite it all, they knew that their home state did not respect their commitment. 

"We are 60 and 62 years old - approaching retirement & thinking about the long term picture," Rebecca said. "It is increasingly important to us that we have the important legal rights and protections that married couples have as we go into this next stage of our lives. And while our commitment ceremonies have meant the world to us (especially our wedding), they have no legal standing in Idaho."

Now, they - and hundreds of other same-sex couples across Idaho celebrating tonight's ruling - are hoping that very soon, they have the freedom to marry right in their home state of Idaho. 

Skylar Sligar & Brian McManus • Twin Falls

"I think it's time to show Idaho that there is nothing wrong with the LGBT people in the world and that their world is not going to turn upside down if marriage is allowed," Skylar explained the afternoon that Judge Dale struck down anti-marriage laws in Idaho.

He and his husband Brian tied the knot in Washington state, but when they returned to their home state of Idaho, they knew that the state essentially viewed them as two single men. That's why they're excited that soon, same-sex couples in the state could be treated with the same respect as different-sex couples.

"We are people and want the same rights as everyone," Skylar explained. "It's not asking for special treatment. We are asking to be treated equal."

Krista Perry & Jen Compton • Boise

Krista and Jen are overjoyed at Judge Dale's ruling in Idaho - as lifelong Boise residents and fifth generation Idahoans, they are thrilled to see their state take this huge step forward on the freedom to marry.

The women met nearly 15 years ago, back in 2000, but it wasn't until 2007, when they reconnected through mutual friends, that they began dating. At the time, Krista was working in Boston while Jen was in Boise, and so they began their relationship long-distance. 

Later that year, though, after Krista and Jen knew that they wanted to be together, Krista moved back to Idaho to work remotely and be with Jen, who has worked as a high school art teacher for just over 12 years. 

"Our hope is that our children will look back at our lives and be proud of the path we carved and the pride we had."

The couple got married in Boston back in 2012, and later that year, they celebrated their love and commitment with all of their family members and friends in McCall, ID. "It was the best day of our lives," Krista explained, recounting the weekend of activities - water skiiing, swimming, beach volleyball, kayaking, and more - that their loved ones participated in on the campground where they hosted their wedding.

"It was always important to both of us to define our relationship to friends and family. We have had such strong support from friends and family, but they have no idea the challenges we face without the protection of our marriage," Krista explained. "From taxes, to potential adoption, to health benefits, to buying our new house, every act requires additional work and diligence that other couples don't have to face."

Now, they're looking to a future where the freedom to marry is the law of the land in Idaho and they don't have to stress about these comlpications. Krista explained, "Our hope is that our children will look back at our lives and be proud of the path we carved and the pride we had."

Nichole Graber & Ryanne Jones • Caldwell

Nichole and Ryanne are a happily engaged couple living in Idaho - the state where Nichole is originally from. One of the few things that has interfered with their happiness has been that the state of Idaho has now allowed them the freedom to marry.

"If Idaho would just allow same sex marriage I would be able to marry my best friend in front of the people who matter most to me."

"If Idaho would just allow same sex marriage I would be able to marry my best friend in front of the people who matter most to me," Nichole explained. "Our love would be recognized and we would be able to have a family. All I want is the right to marry the one person I love more than anything."

They've been engaged for nearly two years - and to hear Nichole tell it, the proposal was casual and sweet, the same way they have been living their lives.

"We were driving around in her car and she looks over and asks "Wanna get hitched?," Nichole laughed. "It wasn't how I imagined it - but it was perfect." 

Now, with the landmark marriage ruling, Nichole and Ryanne - and hundreds of other couples in the Gem State - may not have to wait much longer to be able to share in the freedom to marry - or get hitched, if you will - at home. 

Jeff Tauge & Bill Black • Boise 

For Jeff and Bill, Monday Night Football will always be more than just a game or a television distraction: In some ways, they have it to thank for bringing them together. They met while watching the game together at a bar in Boise in 2001, and, Jeff explained, "He joined me for a beer and basically we have not been apart since."

Two years later, they bought a townhouse together in the city, where they still live today. They love spending time with their three children and four grandchildren, and for the past ten years, they have looked forward to the day when Idaho finally allows them the chance to get married.

Until this week, they were planning a trip to South Lake Tahoe in California to get married - but they hope that the trip won't be required after all. With the marriage ruling, they're hopeful for a future where they can continue leading their lives as a married couple right in their home state of Idaho. 

Denise Feldman & Ann Ersland • Boise

Denise and Ann live in Boise, Idaho and have been together for nearly 15 years. They've had their share of hard times - in late August 2012, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer, and following several surgeries and chemotherapy, they decided to get legally married.

Denise and Ann said "I do" in Washington in 2013, and they describe their wedding as nothing short of amazing.

"It was a breezy but beautiful day," Denise recalls. They had friends and family from both Idaho and Washington in attendance, and their nephew served as the officiant.

Now, Denise and Ann are eagerly awaiting the day that Idaho, the state they have called home for so long, will respect their marriage - and they're hopeful that with Judge Dale's ruling, that day is drawing ever closer. Although Ann has been declared cancer-free, the women realize the importance of the protections that come with marriage, including the ability to include a spouse on health insurance. But more than anything, Denise says that marriage matters to them because they love each other - it's that simple.

"We want to spend the rest of our lives together," Denise said. "And we want to do it as a married couple."

Lora & Letecia Jackson • Twin Falls

In a small ceremony in Asotin County in Washington state, Lora and Letecia, who have been together for more than four years, were able to tie the knot last year.

"Some of my lifelong friends were there, and Letecia's father and stepmother were there, too," Lora explained. "It was small, simple, and very welcoming - and the judge who married us was a blast, having everyone laughing and smiling the entire time."

Since their wedding, Lora and Letecia have known that they were not granted any respect for their marriage license in Idaho. But with Judge Dale's ruling, they are hopeful that this week, they will be legally recognized in their home state.

"Marriage to some people is just a piece of paper and a document to hang on the wall," Lora explained. "Marriage to us is a spiritual binding of two souls becoming one. For us to be able to have that would just mean the world to us. It would mean to the world to us to have the freedom to marry in Idaho because we would not only be able to renew our vows with all of our family present - but to feel as if we are treated equal."

Amber Denman & Katie Noble • Moscow

Native Idahoans Amber and Katie have been together for nearly seven years - this summer, they'll celebrate their anniversary on June 28 - and right now, they're preparing for a big move to Washington state, where they will get married next summer. Part of the reason they decided to move - aside from Amber getting a new job at Washington State University - was that they knew their home state of Idaho would not respect their eventual marriage, and that they could be confronted with many problems when it came to protecting their prospective family.

"Allowing same-sex couples the right to wed sends a profound message to its citizens and the rest of the United States that we are taking a step in the right direction."

"Though Pullman, WA is only 8 miles from Moscow, living in a state where our marriage would be legally recognized is very important to us as we look to begin a family in the next few years," Amber said. 

Still, seeing Idaho respect all marriages is very important to the couple.

"After living in the state of Idaho for the first three decades of my life, marriage equality in Idaho would be deeply meaningful to me and provide a reason to stay and be recognized and valued as a citizen," Amber said. "Allowing same-sex couples the right to wed sends a profound message to its citizens and the rest of the United States that we are taking a step in the right direction to provide equality and demonstrating value for all of its citizens regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. As we move forward in marriage equality, one thing is for certain: LOVE WINS!"

Melissa Borg & Alicia 'Al' Borm

It's been a whirlwind year for Melissa and Alicia, who got engaged on December 29, 2013, celebrated their amazing wedding on March 29 in Redmond, WA, and have seen their lives come together in new and exciting ways.

"With the acknowledgement of our marriage though, we already feel safer. We are committed. And we will pick up our Idaho marriage license on May 16th, 2014."

"I've gained the love of my life forever," Al reflected. "Change is hard, and it is inevitable. But you'll stagnate if you don't move."

Al rejoiced at this week's big step forward for the freedom to marry in Idaho.

"Idaho has moved," Al said, looking forward to the future fights for LGBT people in the state. "And more must come. My position is safe with my federal job, but my wife can be fired from her teaching job in a small, rural school district just for being gay. With the acknowledgement of our marriage though, we already feel safer. We are committed. And we will pick up our Idaho marriage license on May 16th, 2014."

Sherri & Candace Carey • Pocatello

Over the past six years, Sherri and Candace have helped each other celebrate through the happiest of times and supported each other through trying experiences. 

"I found out just this morning that a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban in Idaho, and we are hoping come Friday morning at 9am our marriage will be recognized by Idaho."

They've found support in each other as they dealt with challenging encounters with parents and a difficult experience while Sherri served in the United States National Guard under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' where she had to keep her love and commitment to Candace a secret, even throughout her deployment to Iraq.

They're hoping that come Friday morning, Idaho finally grants them the respect that they deserve for their six years of love and commitment - and for the marriage license that they received after their beautiful wedding last month in Lake Tahoe, CA. 

"In the last 3 years, there has been so much headway made in the freedom to marry that we are constantly being surprised by the strides made," Sherri explained. "I found out just this morning that a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban in Idaho, and we are hoping come Friday morning at 9am our marriage will be recognized by Idaho. We hope to start a family in a couple of years, and having our state recognize our marriage will be so wonderful. We are hoping for the best!"

Read more about the ruling in Idaho here.