This week in marriage equality


Pam Bondi, Florida’s oft-divorced attorney general

Marriage equality went statewide in Illinois this week. One Texas case advanced, and Colorado is having a wedding cake problem.

And Florida’s thrice-divorced attorney general, who travels abroad with a man she’s not married to, thinks same-sex marriage would harm The Sunshine State.


Sunday marked the first day of statewide marriage equality in Illinois.

The Legislature passed a marriage equality law last fall that set June 1 as the start date. A Chicago couple sued for immediate implementation of the law because one partner had a terminal illness. A U.S. district court declared Illinois’ ban unconstitutional so Cook County, which includes Chicago, began issuing licenses in February. Since then, 16 Illinois counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of this week, couples can marry anywhere in the state.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set July 9 as the day it will hear an appeal in DeLeon v. Perry, a Texas marriage equality case. One of the couples, Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes are from Plano.

In February, a federal judge in San Antonio who heard the case declared the Texas marriage ban unconstitutional.

This will be the first Texas case to reach the 5th Circuit. The Texas divorce case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. No ruling has been issued in that case that was heard in November.


Unlike attorneys general in Oregon and Pennsylvania, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending that state’s marriage ban.

She said recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples would impose “significant public harm” by interfering with Florida’s current marriage laws.

Bondi, who has been divorced three times, was in Cayman over Memorial Day weekend, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The paper reported she was supposed to marry husband No. 4, but she returned to the U.S. unmarried and said the wedding was postponed a few weeks.

In her brief in the marriage equality suit, Bondi claims “the state’s assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren’t significant enough to warrant relief.”

Then why is it important for her to get married — for a fourth time? And why is it OK for her to travel abroad with a man she’s not married to but gays marrying once is bad for Florida?


Those poor wedding photographers and cake bakers.

The latest complaint is against a Colorado cake baker who refused to bake a cake for a civil union.

On Friday, the Civil Rights Commission in Colorado ruled that religious objections do not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The cake shop owner, Jack Phillips, said that the decision violates his First Amendment rights to “free speech and exercise of religion.”

The ruling doesn’t interfere with his religious beliefs and only affects his business practices. A store must serve anyone who comes in.

“I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

He said he’s been so overwhelmed by supporters buying cookies and brownies, he doesn’t make cakes anymore.

Yes, we know what goes into brownies in Colorado. I’m sure his business is booming.

—  David Taffet

Illinois couples can marry now in Chicago


Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn

A judge ruled Friday that same-sex couples can begin marrying now in Cook County that includes Chicago.

“There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court, and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said.

Same-sex marriage was scheduled to begin in the state on June 1 as a result of legislation passed last fall. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in November.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who filed a brief in favor of the lawsuit to push up the date, said he would begin issuing licenses immediately.


—  David Taffet

Illinois makes marriage exception for terminally ill lesbian


Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert

A U.S. district court ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill with brain cancer.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a suit on behalf of Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert who want to marry. Gray has terminal brain cancer. The state’s marriage equality law signed last week does not go into effect until June 1. Gray and Ewert will become the first couple to marry in Illinois.

In the ruling, the judge noted that expedited licenses are issued to heterosexual couples in similar circumstances.

For the marriage equality bill to go into effect sooner than June 1 would have taken a larger number of votes in the Legislature.

Illinois already had civil unions. Those will be converted to marriages, but not automatically. On June 1, couples married in Illinois can fill out paperwork that will convert the civil union into a marriage that will be retroactive to the civil union date. That will allow couples to claim any federal benefits retroactively or file amended joint tax returns that could mean refunds in some cases.


—  David Taffet

Illinois governor’s signature makes state 16th to legalize gay marriage


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

A week after Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage, Illinois became the 16th.

The Washington Post reported that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage Wednesday. After signing the bill at the University of Chicago-Illinois, Quinn stood and raised it over his head with one arm as the large crowd applauded, the Post wrote.

Later, the governor tweeted: “It’s official. #MarriageEquality is the law of the land in Illinois!” In another tweet he wrote, “This is an epic victory for equal rights in America. #IL is moving forward. We are a model for our country.”

The state will begin allowing gay marriages starting in the summer.

—  Steve Ramos

This week in marriage equality


Attorneys in Austin at the Supreme Court after the divorce case was heard


Illinois became marriage equality state No. 15 this week.

The Illinois House passed marriage equality on Tuesday. The bill went back to the Senate for a final vote. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign it in a ceremony on Nov. 20. Marriage equality begins in Illinois on June 1.


After the Hawaii state Senate voted last week to approve same-sex marriage, the bill moved to the House, which debated the issue all week. Opponents tried to put the issue on the ballot but failed.

The House passed the bill 30–18 and was set for a final vote Friday. Then the bill goes back to the Senate one last vote.

If passed, marriage equality could begin next week. If passed and signed Monday, Hawaii might beat Illinois to actually become equality state No. 15.


The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in two divorce cases. The central question is whether Texas can grant a divorce without recognizing the marriage. Georgia takes that approach. If the court rules that the divorces are void, then the state is re-instating rather than ending two same-sex marriages.

—  David Taffet

3 states vie to become next with marriage equality


Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The governor said he would call a special session to consider a marriage equality bill.

No, not Rick Perry, and no, not in Texas.

The governor is Neil Abercrombie and the state is Hawaii, where the idea of marriage equality began two decades ago and special sessions are called for constructive purposes. Abercrombie announced his intentions on his blog yesterday and posted the draft of the bill.

Hawaii currently has civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits as marriage on a state level but, since the Defense of Marriage Act ruling in June, are not equal on a federal level.

Baehr v. Lewin was filed in 1991 and the state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Hawaiian constitution. A state law prohibiting same-sex marriage passed in 1994. That was found unconstitutional in 1996 but a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman passed in 1998.

In 2009, the first civil union bill passed in Hawaii. The Republican governor vetoed it. After Abercrombie, a Democrat, was elected in 2011, it passed again and he signed it. Now Hawaii may become the next marriage equality state.

That is, if New Mexico doesn’t beat them to it. Six New Mexico counties have started issuing marriage licenses in the last week, but yesterday, all 33 county clerks asked the state Supreme Court for a statewide ruling.

And in Illinois, where a marriage equality bill has been languishing since the beginning of the year, the American Civil Liberties Union hired former state Republican chair Pat Brady to lobby Republican legislators. Brady was forced from his position because of his pro-equality stance. The bill has already passed the state Senate and needs to pass in the House. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill.

—  David Taffet

Marriage momentum continues with bills introduced in Rhode Island and Illinois

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

After Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a marriage equality bill into law in Washington state, momentum for marriage is growing.

In Rhode Island, State Rep. Art Handy and State Sen. Rhoda Perry are expected to introduce a marriage bill to replace an unpopular civil union law that passed last year.

Rhode Island’s Rep. David Cicciline is one of four openly gay members of Congress. The speaker of the Rhode Island House, Gordon Fox, is gay. And Gov. Lincoln Chaffee said he would sign a marriage bill if it passed.

Last year, Illinois passed relationship recognition. This week, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly. Backers of the bill said that the civil union law that is in effect leaves out some important rights.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who signed the Freedom to Marry pledge at the national mayor’s conference, said he will back marriage equality in Illinois.

In New Jersey, a marriage equality bill passed the Senate this week and was headed to the Assembly. Gov. Chris Christie has said he would veto the bill, and that the issue should be decided voters. According to polls, a majority of people in New Jersey support marriage equality. Meanwhile, in Maryland, the governor testified before two legislative committees last week in favor of a marriage equality bill.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signed on to Freedom to Marry petition calling on the Democratic Party to add marriage equality to its party platform.

—  David Taffet

WHAT’S BREWING: Illinois couples, straight pride and Rudolf Brazda

Rudolf Brazda 1913-2011

1. The Census Bureau released information on same-sex couples in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that the number of gay and lesbian couples in that states jumped by 40 percent over the last decade. The 2000 figure is very unreliable, however, and the number from the 2010 count only includes couples who marked their forms in a particular way – as married, even if the marriage is not recognized in that state or if not legally married, or as domestic partners.

2. Sao Paulo, Brazil, will celebrate Straight Pride. Associated Press reports the third Sunday in December will be marked as Straight Pride Day if the mayor signs a bill passed by the city council. LGBT groups said that the event will provoke violence against them. The sponsor said it was to protest all of the privileges the LGBT community has.

3. Rudolf Brazda, 98, has died. He was the last known Holocaust survivor who was arrested for homosexuality. An exhibit about the treatment of gays in the Holocaust continues at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St., continues through Sept. 5. Information on Brazda is included in the exhibit.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Obama issues gay Pride proclamation; civil unions begin in Illinois

Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris, who camped overnight, were the first couple to obtain their civil union license in Illinois.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. President Barack Obama on Tuesday proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2011. Unlike in 2009 and 2010, however, Obama’s LGBT Pride proclamation makes no reference to relationship recognition. Was this intentional or just an oversight? And if it was intentional, why? Perhaps because Obama is still thinking about whether he supports same-sex marriage. Read the full proclamation here.

2. Back in Obama’s home state, Illinois’ new civil unions law takes effect today, and more than 100 couples lined up this morning outside the Cook County Clerk’s Office in Chicago. Although couples can obtain their licenses today, they must wait 24 hours before holding a ceremony. Illinois is the sixth state to allow civil unions or the equivalent.

3. Razzle Dazzle Dallas officially gets under way today with the Cedar Springs Wine Walk & Dog Walk. You mean you haven’t already purchased your sound-activated LED T-shirt?

—  John Wright

Pro-Repeal Groups Stand Together in Illinois

The following is from HRC field organizer and military veteran Lee Reinhart:

Last week, members from Organizing for America, Equality Illinois and American Veterans for Equal Rights joined HRC in an office visit to Senator Mark Kirk here in Chicago.  We were excited to gather such a large crowd for our visit, but the size of our groups caused its own challenges.

Kirk’s office couldn’t meet with such a large crowd, so we did everything that we could to make sure that at least one representative from each group got to participate in the visit. And while Kirk’ office only answer to the question of repeal was the recent GOP letter to block any bill before tax cuts had been voted on, we made sure that we were heard clearly when it comes to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On a positive note,  staff members from Senator Durbin’s got word of our crowd’s visit being soured and took the time to send someone down to the lobby to talk with our group; a couple of us were even able to stop in Senator Durbin’s office as well. In the end our message was loud and clear: no matter happens, we are united to continue this fight until the end.

We must continue to show Senator Kirk that Illinois residents support repeal this year. There is so much at stake and we need your help now.  We’re calling HRC members all over the state and transferring them directly to the Senator’s office. If you live in Chicago and can help make calls, (food and drinks provided) or if you are able to join a virtual phonebank from home, please contact for details.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin