BREAKING: Marriage equality win in Colorado

Colorado state District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled Wednesday that Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2006, is unconstitutional. But Crabtree immediately stayed his ruling as the case moves through the appeals process, Reuters has reported.

In his ruling, Crabtree wrote: “There is no rational relationship between any legitimate governmental purpose and the marriage bans.”

Also on Wednesday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced he will appeal a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit appeals court directly to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than asking for the full 10th Circuit court to rehear the case.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage bans are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court while two other lawsuits challenging bans in Oklahoma and Virginia have already been heard by appellate courts.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Appeals court grants stay for Sandler and Quasney

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order today compelling the state of Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, even though the federal district judge that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban last week stayed his ruling, leaving the ban in effect while the case makes its way through the appeals process. The 7th Circuit Court issued its ruling after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion asking that the stay be lifted for Sandler and Quasney because Quasney is battling stage 4 ovarian cancer and “the family needs the dignity, comfort and protections of marriage as they fight to be together,” according to a statement just released by Lambda Legal.

The 7th Circuit Court also set an expedited briefing schedule in the base, Baskin v. Bogan, with all briefs in the case due by Aug. 5. Arguments in the case could come as early as the end of the summer, Lambda Legal officials said.

Paul D. Castillo, staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said: “It is time for the state of Indiana to leave Niki and Amy in peace and not subject them and their marriage to any more stress and uncertainty as this case proceeds. We are thrilled that the court ruled in favor of this family … . We will continue to fight until no family in Indiana needs to worry about their marriage being stripped away from them and all Hoosiers have the freedom to marry.”

The couple filed suit challenging Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban in March in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, and Lambda Legal later filed a motion seeking immediate relief for the two women and their two children, ages 3 and 1.

Quasney was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer nearly five years ago in 2009, when she had more than 100 tumors surgically removed. Since then she has gone through years of chemotherapy to battle the disease. Quasney and Baskin have a civil union in Illinois and were married in Massachusetts last year. But they need to have their marriage recognized in Indiana, where they live, to “receive the full protections that every other married family in Indiana receives,” according to Lambda Legal representatives.

Click here to read the 7th Circuit Court’s order lifting the stay for Baskin and Quasney. Click here to see Lambda Legal’s request for an emergency order. Click here to sign the petition urging the Indiana attorney general to abandon the appeals, and click here to read more about the families and the entire case.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Kentucky judge rules in favor of marriage equality

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has just ruled that Kentucky’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, according to reports by The Courier-Times. This ruling comes four months after Heyburn’s decision in February ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.

Judge John G. Heyburn IIDon’t expect immediate wedding bells in The Bluegrass State. Heyburn put his ruling on hold pending a decision by a higher court.

Lawyers for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s only argument in support of the ban was that traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate and the state’s long-term economic stability. Heyburn rejected that reasoning, saying “These arguments are not those of serious people.”

Heyburn said in his ruling, “In America, even sincere and long-hold religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted.” He also said that there is “no conceivable legitimate purpose” for the ban and that it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 overturned a significant portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, there have been at least 15 court rulings at various levels of the federal court system overturning same-sex marriage bans or bans on recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. That number could go up again soon since a state trial court in Miami is slated to hear oral arguments Wednesday on a motion filed in May by six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute challenging Florida’s same-sex marriage ban.

—  Tammye Nash

This week in marriage equality

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Crazy of the week: Wisc. Republican Congressional candidate Karen Mueller

Louisiana

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman set July 16 as a deadline to file briefs involving Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban. The same judge heard arguments last week about recognizing out-of-state marriages and said he was not comfortable ruling on such a narrow issue. He hasn’t set a date to hear the full challenge to the marriage ban or said if he will even hear additional arguments.

Colorado

Three counties in Colorado continue to issue marriage licenses after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Utah’s marriage ban. Although the court put a stay on its ruling, the stay specified Utah. County clerks in Colorado, which is also in the 10th Circuit, said the ruling applies to them and the stay does not.

Colorado State Senator Jesse Ulibarri and his partner Louis Trujillo were among the couples who got married last week in Boulder county.

State Attorney General John Suthers said the licenses are invalid and that the Utah decision does not apply to Colorado.

Florida

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the office again this fall, filed an amicus brief supporting marriage equality in a challenge to his state’s marriage ban. Crist is running as a Democrat.

In his last term in office, he served as a Republican and did little to advance LGBT rights. He supported the Federal Marriage Amendment to put the ban on same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. As rumors spread that Crist was gay, he got married at age 50.

Indiana

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals put a stay on a lower court’s ruling that allowed same-sex marriages to begin in the state.

Hundreds of couples married between Tuesday’s ruling and Friday’s stay. While the attorney general said those couples are in legal limbo, their marriages will be recognized by the federal government.

Lambda Legal filed papers with the 7th Circuit to go ahead and recognize the marriage of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler. Quasney is battling Stage IV ovarian cancer. The trial court granted relief to the couple but the attorney general appealed. The emergency relief granted by the court is no longer in effect since the appeals court’s stay went into effect.

Crazy of the week

Wisconsin Republican Congressional candidate Karen Mueller said on the campaign trail same-sex marriage will lead to “the legalization of marriage between siblings.”

Mueller said that if a same-sex couple can marry, any two people would eventually be able to tie the knot and that the state ban does not actually discriminate against LGBT couples.

Where do they come up with this crap? Must be something going on in her own head and Dallas Voice warns her brothers and sisters to beware.

—  David Taffet

Crist files brief in Florida lawsuit in support of marriage equality

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist, the once and possibly future governor of Florida filed an amicus brief today in support of the lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Florida, according to a statement released earlier today by Equality Florida. The lawsuit, Pareto v. Ruvin, is set for a hearing July 2 before Judge Sarah Zabel in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami.

“In the last six years, our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past,” Crist said. “Further, science has uniformly reached the conclusion that heterosexual marriages are just as valued and revered as they have ever been; and children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as kids raised in straight families.”

Crist said that “with the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice,” marriage equality will not be an issue “for the children and grandchildren of this state.” But, he added, “it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love.”

In a statement regarding Crist’s brief, Equality Florida cited statistics indicating that 57 percent of Floridians support marriage equality. Crist filed the amicus brief in Pareto v. Ruvin, filed Jan. 21, challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit argues that Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the United States Constitution by denying them the legal protections and equal dignity that having the freedom to marry provides.

Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said, “As a former governor and as someone who previously supported [the gay marriage ban], Charlie Crist’s words matter a great deal. He has taken the same journey the majority of Floridians have taken in realizing that this ban serves no purpose but to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children.”

Crist, then a Republican, was governor of Florida from 2007-2011, but instead of running for re-election in 2o1o, he chose to run for U.S. Senate, race he lost to Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. In 2012, Crist switched to the Democratic Party and endorsed President Obama for re-election.

Crist — who was briefly married to Amanda Morrow in 1979 and who married Carole Rome in July 2008 after nine months of dating — has long been plagued by rumors that he was gay. In fact, in 2012 during his failed bid for the U.S. Senate, charges surfaced that Crist had affairs with two men while he was governor and then paid them to leave Florida to avoid the possibility of being embarrassed. Damon Chase — the attorney for former Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer who was facing charges he used state funds to pay his personal expenses — claimed that Greer would testify to Crist having paid off his two male paramours, and that Crist had tried to kiss Greer, and that Crist had appointed Republican George LeMieux to a U.S. Senate seat to keep LeMieux from revealing secrets about Crist’s homosexuality.

Crist denied all the allegations, calling them “a bunch of delusional lies.” Also in 2012, the Tampa Bay Times reported on records indicating that Crist believed Greer was trying to extort him.

 

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: Judge rules Pennsylvania ban unconstitutional

Oregon marriage

Oregon couples began marrying immediately after yesterday’s court ruling. (Picture courtesy Oregon United for Marriage)

UPDATE: A Pennsylvania judge ruled the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. No word yet on when marriage begins or if the ruling will be stayed until it can be appealed. The attorney general said she would not defend the ban. The governor has not said if he would appeal.

“We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Judge John E. Jones III said in his ruling. Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush and was recommended to Bush by then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

ORIGINAL POST: This week is heating up as an active marriage-equality week.

Monday’s decision in Oregon which legalized same-sex marriage was expected. Also expected was an Arkansas state Supreme Court stay that stopped marriage equality in that state after about 500 couples married.

A ruling is expected at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. Central Time) Tuesday in a marriage case in Pennsylvania. Should the judge strike down the state’s marriage law, as every judge who has heard a marriage case since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA last June, marriage could begin in Pennsylvania this week. Rallies are planned across the state this afternoon.

In Utah, Judge Dale Kimball ruled Monday the state must recognize the marriages of the 1,300 couples who married during a two-week period when it was legal in December. He said it was unfair to put those couples into limbo, affecting everything from adoption to taxes to benefits. The decision doesn’t take effect for 21 days to give the state time to appeal.

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma is the next target in marriage campaign

Screen shot 2014-05-06 at 10.17.02 AMThe U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has already heard the appeal of a federal court’s ruling that Oklahoma’s marriage law is unconstitutional. The case was expedited by the court and a decision is expected soon.

Now, Freedom to Marry has helped finance a TV commercial running in Oklahoma appealing to fairness for all families. The ad features an Oklahoma lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts. They live with their three children and the parents of one of the women. Her dad is Ed Cuyler, a former army colonel.

“Here in Oklahoma, we value family,” Cuyler says.

“Marriage enhances our community and makes families stronger,” Mrs. Cuyler says.

—  David Taffet

Another Texas judge rules state’s marriage law unconstitutional

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Judge Barbara Nellermoe

Another Texas judge ruled that Texas, marriage amendment is unconstitutional.

While the Texas Supreme Court continues to delay ruling on two same-sex divorces, Judge Barbara Nellermoe in San Antonio ruled today that the marriage law is unconstitutional, and she can proceed hearing a couple’s divorce and custody case.

In one of the divorce cases before the Texas Supreme Court, Dallas Judge Teena Callahan ruled the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and proceeded to grant the divorce. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year declaring DOMA unconstitutional and ruled the Texas marriage law also unconstitutional.

Today’s ruling in the San Antonio case involves a lesbian couple who married in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

Kristi Lesh became pregnant and gave birth last year, and the couple split up later in the year.

Lesh argues that since she’s the biological mother, she should retain full custody, since Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Allison Flood Lesh says a straight couple would generally be granted joint custody or visitation, and she should be awarded the same privilege.

So Kristi believes she had the right to take advantage of marriage when it suited her, but for the purposes of divorce, she’s acting like Greg Abbott, pleading the marriage doesn’t exist.

The judge agreed with Allison and called for a hearing.

—  David Taffet

Houston couple wins ACLU same-sex wedding contest

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A Texas couple is among the five winners of the national American Civil Liberties Union’s Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding contest.

Jeff Robertson and Jeremiah Pyant of Houston were one of 23 same-sex couples from the Lone Star State vying for the chance to win $5,000 toward their dream wedding. Contestants had to live in state like Texas where same-sex marriage is prohibited to be eligible to enter.

Pyant, a flight attendant, and Robertson, an ad executive, met four years ago aboard a plane that Pyant was working on. They got engaged in December and want to marry aboard a hot air balloon taking off from Texas and flying over New Mexico, where the marriage will be legal.

Winners were chosen out of the top 25 couples that received the most votes. ACLU told The Associated Press nearly 200,000 votes were cast for the 400 entries since the contest’s December launch.

After the contest began, more court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage started coming out of states, including a decision in Texas back in February.

“As soon as we entered the contest, the court decisions started coming out,” said Jeff Robertson. “We’re living a civil rights movement right before our eyes.”

James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, said the wedding contest highlights the type of problems faced by gay couples in the nearly 30 states where marriage-equality lawsuits have been filed.

“We live in this crazy time, with a patchwork of protections, where you can go across the border and get married,” he said. “The problem is that when you turn around and go back, you’re not going to be considered married by your home states. That’s not the way it should work in America.”

—  Anna Waugh

Greg Abbott comes out for same-sex marriage in April Fool’s news story

Abbott.Greg

Greg Abbott

As if anyone would believe the Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott would back same-sex marriage, some Texans may have thought he had done just that on Tuesday.

In a post by the Burnt Orange Report, Abbott is quoted as saying he’s decided to support his old friend Mark Phariss and partner Victor Holmes. The couple is suing the state of Texas for the right to marry in the Lone Star State along with a lesbian couple form Austin.

“I had an epiphany this morning when I looked at myself in the mirror,” Abbott told The Associated Press, according to the story. “I thought, ‘Gosh, Mark (Phariss) and Victor (Holmes) make such a cute couple. They’ve been happily in love for over 16 years now. It’d be such a shame if I were the person standing between their love and the true happiness of all other LGBT couples in Texas.’

“Look, this whole governor gig thing may not play out as smoothly as I thought it would, with me seriously offending someone new every week. I just don’t want to be forever known as that guy who stood against the love of his long-time friend and the rest of the thousands of LGBT couples in Texas simply looking to be treated like everyone else. That sounds like the bad guy in a James Cameron movie.”

Abbott’s support would indeed be a surprise to say the least. He’s been a staunch defender of the state’s 2005 a same-sex marriage amendment and intervened in the divorce case of a Dallas couple, preventing them from receiving a divorce. The case, and one of a lesbian couple in which Abbott’s office intervened in after the divorce was granted, is pending a decision at the Texas Supreme Court.

Perhaps a more believable April Fool’s story would be that Gov. Rick Perry came out. But then that’s already true, according to a book by former out state Rep. Glen Maxey.

—  Anna Waugh