A federal judge in Kentucky on Thursday ordered the state to recognize marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples from other states.
U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn, a nominee of George H.W. Bush, issued the final order on a ruling he made February 12. There were two questions at issue in the Bourke v. Beshear case. Heyburn said the state’s refusal to recognize valid licenses obtained in other states violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Today’s order instructs the state how to comply with that ruling: Start recognizing marriage licenses of same-sex couples.
Heyburn still must rule on whether the state’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples is constitutional. Attorneys on both sides are submitting briefs on that issue, and a ruling could come in a few months.
If either or both questions are appealed, the case will go before the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Another case testing state bans, one from Ohio, is already petitioning the 6th Circuit.
Heyburn did not respond to the state’s request that he stay his order. If the state appeals to a higher court for a stay, Dan Conway, attorney for the plaintiff couples, has said he will oppose it.
THEIR DAY IN COURT | Plano couple Vic Holmes, far left, and Mark Phariss and Austin couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman in court Feb. 12. (Photo courtesy of Randy Bear)
A federal judge declared Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional Wednesday, but left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case, U.S. News & World Report reported.
Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. He said the couples are likely to win their case, and the ban should be lifted, but said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals before do so.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”
The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights activists following similar decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.
But this was the first time a court in the conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was expected to file an expedited appeal.
“Today’s ruling by Judge Garcia is a huge victory that moves Texas one step closer to the freedom to marry,” said Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor made it clear that animus or moral disapproval is not an acceptable justification for denying any American their constitutional right to equal protection of the law. We are gratified to see Judge Garcia uphold the Constitution of the United States and declare that Texas’ restrictions on the freedom to marry are unconstitutional and unenforceable. We anxiously await the day when the United States Supreme Court will reach the same conclusion.”
Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes filed their federal civil rights lawsuit saying Texas’ ban unconstitutionally denied them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman filed a lawsuit saying Texas officials were violating their rights by not recognizing their marriage conducted in a state where gay marriage is legal.
“In granting today’s order, Judge Garcia’s decision relies heavily on the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor and is rooted in law and fairness,” Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said. “It also confirms what we in the LGBT community have known for nearly a decade; the additions to the Texas Constitution and the Texas Family Code, which many fair-minded Texans fought against when it was put to the state’s voters as Amendment 2 in 2005, are discriminatory and violate the United States Constitution.”
Attorneys for the state argued that Texas voters had imposed the ban through a referendum and that Texas officials were within their rights to defend marriage traditions.
“This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides,” a statement by Abbott’s office reads. “And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it’s an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit. Because the judge has stayed his own decision, his ruling has no immediate practical effect. Instead, the ultimate decision about Texas law will be made by the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that States have the authority to define and regulate marriage. The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”
Another gay couple has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court in Austin. In that case, two men argue that the ban discriminates against them based on their gender. That case is scheduled for a hearing later this year.
Mark Jiminez, center, and his husband, Beau Chandler, spoke at a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally in Fort Worth on Saturday.
When Dallas LGBT activist Mark Jiminez said “hope is on the horizon” at a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally in Fort Worth on Saturday, he didn’t know how close that horizon was.
Within minutes after the rally disbanded, the Los Angeles Times reported that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will issue a directive Monday expanding government recognition of same-sex marriages to all federal courtrooms and prisons, and some federal benefits programs.
The new policy, which Holder plans to announce Saturday night at a gay rights dinner in New York City, means the Justice Department will not object if gay or lesbian partners refuse to testify against their spouses in federal criminal and civil cases, and will push for them to be accorded the same rights in bankruptcy court as other married couples.
These privileges will be extended to same-sex couples even in states that do not recognize their marriages as long as they were legally married in another state.
Same-sex marriages also would be recognized for some federal programs, including one that provides death benefits to surviving spouses of police officers and firefighters who are injured or killed in the line of duty, as well as the compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Cd Kirven, regional state leader for GetEQUAL TX, spoke at a marriage rally Saturday in Fort Worth.
While the changes may not affect large numbers of people, the gay advocacy community views them as another important step in the growing movement toward gender-based equality since the Supreme Court issued two rulings last June that expanded the rights of gay couples.
“While the immediate effect is that all gay married couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound,” said Fred Saintz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign, which Holder will address Saturday night. “Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all.”
According to Holder’s prepared remarks, the government will take the position that married same-sex couples should be eligible to file jointly for bankruptcy and receive the same protections in bankruptcy court as other married couples.
About a dozen people gathered in Fort Worth on Saturday for a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally.
Married same-sex couples in federal prisons will receive the same visitation privileges as other married inmates under the new policy. They also may be eligible for furloughs or even compassionate release in the case of a crisis involving their spouse.
Holder will remind the audience that he is the first African-American attorney general, and that his predecessors played a key role in the civil rights movement five decades ago.
“As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation runs just as deep,” Holder will say, according to the advance text.
In Dallas County, the first black district attorney also drew upon the mistreatment of minorities as a catalyst to establish an LGBT Task Force that will work to eliminate discrimination in the judicial system. Dallas County DA Craig Watkins said Friday he “was disappointed to hear that many victims of domestic violence or hate crimes were afraid to speak out because they feared lack of a law enforcement response.”
Those sentiments of working for equality boomed from Cd Kirven, regional state leader of Get EQUAL TX, during Saturday’s rally.
“This is a country founded on principles bigger than religion,” she said to the dozen people who gathered. “It’s religious slavery to say I can’t marry the person I love, by telling me who I have to marry. And we have the nerve to point our fingers at Sochi. Marriage equality is coming, but we have to keep fighting for it.”
A federal judge in western Virginia has certified as a class action a lawsuit filed by two Shenandoah Valley couples challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, Reuters reported.
Friday’s order adds to growing momentum to end the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, with Virginia’s new attorney general saying his office will no longer defend the ban.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said in the order that same-sex couples seeking to marry in the state as well as those married in states where gay marriage is legal could challenge Virginia’s ban as a group.
Lawyers for the couples who filed the lawsuit estimate there are about 15,000 same-sex households in Virginia, based on U.S. Census data.
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment striking down Virginia’s same-sex marriage laws and a permanent injunction barring their enforcement.
At the request of two same-sex couples involved in a parallel lawsuit in federal court in Norfolk, Urbanski’s order excludes them from the class action to avoid interfering with their case.
Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said his decision not to defend the ban was aimed at putting Virginia “on the right side of history” and ending its legacy of opposing landmark civil rights rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates, who have threatened to impeach Herring, are trying to push through a bill that would permit them to hire their own counsel to defend the marriage ban. But even if approved, the bill would probably be vetoed by the Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The Virginia attorney general’s decision not to defend the ban follows two Supreme Court rulings last year.
One struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California. But those rulings did not address whether state bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted in favor of the state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriages.
But a poll released last October by Virginia’s Christopher Newport University showed that 56 percent of likely voters opposed the ban, and 36 percent favored it.
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, including eight states where it became legal in 2013. Thirty-three ban gay couples from marrying by state constitutional amendment, statute or both.
The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a proposal to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote on House Joint Resolution 3 was 57-40.
The bill now goes to the state Senate.
Marriage equality supporters scored an important victory Monday, potentially thwarting the effort to put the ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the Indiana ballot this November. But during debate on the bill Tuesday, Rep. Shelli VanDenBurgh (D-Crown Point) said she thinks the amendment to remove language that would have also banned civil unions and domestic partnerships was just a tactic to give some Republicans political cover. She predicted the state Senate would reinsert the language taken out of the House bill, and the full original bill would be ultimately passed.
The Republican-dominated House voted 52 to 43 to remove language from the proposed ban that would have prevented same-sex couples from obtaining any form of recognition for their relationships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. Some opponents said it could even have prevented employers from offering equal benefits to employees with same-sex partners.
During Tuesday’s debate, Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland), who described himself as a “person of faith,” said gay couples can live together but “where does it stop?”
“These people want to live a lifestyle, that’s their right,” said Burton, “but when they force some type of an object on us, then people have a right” to vote.
VanDenBurgh (D-Crown Point) responded to that later by noting that the proposed ban was singling out one group of people. “Where does that stop?” she asked.
Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) recounted the discrimination she experienced when she sought to become the first woman on her local police force. She said she was forced to wear a man’s police uniform because her supervisor told her that her trying to be on the police force was “trying to be a man.”
“Discrimination is an ugly, mean thing,” said Lawson.
If the Senate passes the version of the bill approved by the House, then the proposal will have to be approved by the next legislative session before going to voters.
The state’s constitution requires that, before a proposed constitutional change can be put before voters, it must pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature.
If the senate restores the original language, the House would have to agree to that original version in order to put the measure on the ballot this year.
Indiana’s House Elections and Apportionment Committee advanced a constitutional ban on marriage equality last week, voting 9-3 along party lines. Now, the gay son of the Republican committee chair who successfully pushed the measure through, state Rep. Milo Smith, is speaking out, saying he’s “terribly disappointed” by what his father did, The Huffington Post reported.
Chris Smith first posted his thoughts on the Facebook page of the LGBT advocacy group Indiana Equality on Saturday, three days after his father’s committee passed the ban.
“I’m not here to badmouth my dad,” he wrote. “I’m terribly disappointed in his decision and beliefs, but he’s not going to change them now if he hasn’t after all these years of knowing I am gay. I am here to support you and my friends who remain in Indiana. They are my extended family.”
On Sunday, he wrote another post on his own Facebook page that read, “My stand puts me in clear conflict with my own father, who is a state legislator and has voted to pass the resolution out of his committee and onto the full House for a vote.”
In an interview with Nuvo, an alternatively weekly publication in Indianapolis, Chris Smith said he resides in California and is in a domestic partnership. He said overall, he felt “really sad.”
“I’m embarrassed. I’m really disgusted by the whole thing. I’m confused as to what I should do,” he said, noting his father had not given him a heads up about the legislation or how he would vote.
When asked for comment, Tory Flynn, a spokeswoman for Indiana state House Republicans, said she spoke with Milo Smith after his son’s post went up.
“He stated that he loves his son very much, and this is a personal issue,” she said.
The House Elections and Apportionment Committee was never even supposed to vote on HJR-3, which would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The measure was originally set to receive a vote in the House Judiciary Committee, but after backers realized there weren’t enough votes for it to pass — several Republicans had expressed concerns — House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) moved the measure at the last minute to Smith’s committee, which was considered more conservative.
HJR-3 is now in the hands of the full chamber, and a vote could come as soon as Monday. The Indianapolis Star polled the 100 members of the state House on where they stand on the legislation and found the body is now evenly split between supporters and opponents, with a quarter of the chamber still undecided.
Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana; HJR-3 would simply enshrine the ban in the state constitution. Once the bill passes out of the House, it would need to clear the Senate before going before the public as a ballot measure.
The High Court is scheduled to rule on the legality of the law on Dec. 12. Even if the court allows the marriages to stand, the Parliament could then pass legislation making the marriages illegal. The current prime minister was elected on an anti-marriage platform.
Despite that, couples traveled from around the country to the capital to marry.
One of the arguments against same-sex marriage is one that hasn’t been used by opponents in the U.S. and is one of the most logical. They argue that making marriage legal in one state and not others is confusing.
Opponents in Parliament argue that same-sex marriage will mean same-sex parenting that will involve taking a child from its biological parents to give to same-sex couples.
“Same-sex marriage means same-sex parenting,” said Australian Christian Lobby spokesman Lyle Shelton. “That means necessarily taking a child from its biological mother or father and giving it to someone else.”
They don’t explain why those perfect heterosexual parents will be losing or giving up their children just so same-sex couples can be parents.
A marriage equality bill came up twice in Parliament last year but didn’t pass.
HONOLULU (AP) — Six same-sex couples tied the knot in Hawaii early Monday, moments after a law granting them the right to do so took effect in the state often credited with starting the national gay marriage debate.
Even more couples watched and waited their turn at the Waikiki resort.
Across town, an openly gay Unitarian minister wed his partner of 15 years in a ceremony attended by clergy who pushed for the new law, plus Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called the special legislative session that led to the law.
“It’s about making that commitment to the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with,” said Saralyn Morales, moments after cutting a small wedding cake after marrying her partner, Isajah Morales.
Hawaii’s gay marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry.
That helped lead Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which denied federal benefits to gay couples. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the act this year.
An additional 14 states and the District of Columbia also allow same-sex marriage. Illinois was the 16th state to legalize it, and the law takes effect June 1.
Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time.
Couples can sign up for a license online, then be verified by any license agent throughout the state. Agents have set up shop throughout the islands, from resorts on Maui and the Big Island to hard-to-reach places on Kauai.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi judge on Monday refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who got married in California, saying the marriage wasn’t recognized under state law, according to the woman who filed and her lawyer.
Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, who filed for the divorce in September in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County, said in a telephone interview Monday that the judge seemed sympathetic and that she plans to appeal the ruling.
Czekala-Chatham, a 51-year-old credit analyst and mother of two teenage sons from an earlier straight marriage, said she was “a little bit disappointed.”
“I would have liked to have had the divorce, but either way he ruled, it was going to be appealed,” she said.
Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood’s office had argued that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce in a marriage it doesn’t recognize. Hood’s office said in a motion to intervene on Nov. 15 that Mississippi “has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.”