Alabama judge issues second ruling upholding equality

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade issued a second ruling today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) upholding marriage equality in Alabama, according to Freedom To Marry, the national organization working for marriage equality nation wide.

Granade, appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a similar ruling on Friday, Jan. 23, in a different marriage equality case. Both rulings have been stayed for 14 days pending appeals. But if the stays are not extended, same-sex couples should be able to legally marry in Alabama beginning the week of Feb. 9, making it the 37th marriage equality state.

(And unless the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of marriage equality very quickly and chooses not to issue a stay, that would mean Alabama will be a functioning marriage equality state before Texas. Alabama, y’all!)

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said of the newest ruling: “Today’s victory in Alabama is the latest in a number of marriage wins from a bipartisan cascade of courts across the country, including the Deep South. When the first couples marry, their neighbors across Alabama will see that families are helped and no one is hurt. As we look forward to a nationwide ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, this tremendous momentum shows that America — all of America — is truly ready for the freedom to marry.”

—  Tammye Nash

Join the discussion, join the battle to end discrimination

Marriage equality efforts are getting the lion’s share of the headlines these days: Texans wait on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on marriage equality in The Lone Star State (and Louisiana and Mississippi), and the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question once and for all.

But as the LGBT community makes great strides toward marriage equality, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people in the U.S. daily face the very real threat of discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and more.

Today (Monday, Jan. 26), LGBT equality groups nationwide began holding public awareness events, including launching an online discussion using #discriminationexists, to shine a light on the fact that so many hardworking people still do not have basic legal protections from discrimination.

(You can follow the discussion at DiscriminationExists.org.)

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Here in North Texas, and across the state, community leaders took the chance today to speak out against discrimination, issuing a call to action to LGBTs and their supporters in all areas and in all walks of life to join the fight for real equality,

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas: “The Texas I believe in is a land of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have a chance to get ahead. Clear protections from discrimination would help ensure that all Texans, including those who are gay or transgender, have a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families and build a better life. Changing the law won’t end all unfair treatment overnight. But it provides one more tool to ensure that all Texans are treated fairly and equally.”

Cece Cox, chief executive officer at Resource Center: “Discrimination exists against LGBTQ people at many levels. We have no statewide protections in areas like employment and public accommodations, and even in those few cities where protections exist, some state lawmakers want to see those protections removed. Texans overwhelmingly support fairness and equal opportunity for all people.”

Lou Weaver, trans outreach specialist for Texas Wins: “We have been talking about same-sex marriage for a long time in the U.S. We need to also think about basic rights for everyone: ‘Can I get a job? Can I find a place to live?’ Transgender people are still facing discrimination at high rates, and we need to take an honest look at our policies. We need access to basic fairness and equality in order to survive. That is what this is about, living our lives and having access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School: “Faith leaders of every background believe that everyone is created with God-given dignity. Our faith calls upon us to speak out for everyone’s dignity and security in the work they do, and for full access to housing. No one in our country should live in fear of losing their job or being denied fair housing just because of who they are.”

Todd Whitley, board chair for Hope for Peace & Justice: “It is hard to imagine any person being able to enjoy a sense of peace on their job or entering a public accommodation if that person has no assurance they won’t legally be discriminated against because of who they are. Sadly, this is exactly the reality for gay and transgender people in our state, -a grave injustice that must be resolved so that we can all enjoy the same opportunities without fear of legalized discrimination.”

A recent poll found that 9 of out 10 voters think that a federal law is already in place protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Unfortunate, that is not true. There is no federal nondiscrimination law, and here in Texas, there is no state law either. We remain vulnerable in so many areas.

But Equality Texas officials say their organization is working to change that, partnering with business leaders, faith leaders and community members to put the necessary protections in place.

Toward that end, Equality Texas is holding three advocacy days, beginning Feb. 17 with Faith Advocacy Day in Austin. More than 225 faith leaders and members of clergy and 65 first responders in Texas have signed on to publicly demonstrate their support for nondiscrimination already.

Visit EqualityTexas.org to find out what you can do to help.

—  Tammye Nash

Judge rules Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

EqualityA federal judge ruled Alabama’s sane-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

According to the Huffington Post, “U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, known as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.”

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

 

—  James Russell

Prejudiced SCOTUS justices? AFA calls on Ginsberg, Kagan to recuse themselves from marriage equality ruling

Ginsberg.Kagan.Wildmon

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, right, has said that U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, left, and Elena Kagan, right, should recuse themselves from marriage equality cases because they have officiated at same-sex marriages.

The American Family Association has called on U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan to recuse themselves from the marriage equality cases the court announced last Friday (Jan. 16), that it will be hearing appeals on, likely in April. Ginsberg and Kagan should not participate in the hearing, AFA President Tim Wildmon has declared, because they have both officiated as same-sex weddings, according to reports by the UK LGBT news site Pink News.

SCOTUS announced Friday that the court will accept appeals on four marriage equality cases — from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The four cases are from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate circuit court to rule against marriage equality since June 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down that portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions that honor marriage equality.

Last October, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of cases in which other federal appellate courts had ruled in favor of marriage equality. And in December the the Supreme Court declined to extend a stay on a federal trial court ruling in favor of marriage equality in Florida, a decision that allowed legal same-sex marriages to begin there on Jan. 6. (A state judge who had also ruled in favor of equality but had also stayed her ruling lifted that stay on Jan. 5, so the first legal same-sex marriages in Florida were performed that day.)

Pink News notes that Ginsberg “has quietly officiated a number of same-sex weddings,” the first in 2013, while Kagan presided over the wedding ceremony of her former law-clerk and his partner last year. That, to Wildmon, indicates “Both of these justices’ personal and private actions that actively endorse gay marriage clearly indicate how they would vote on same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court.”

But the Pink News posts also notes that the other justices’ previous actions could be seen as indicating bias as well: “However, Mr Wildmon’s claims have no discernible legal basis; similarly arbitrary claims could be made that as seven of the nine justices are themselves married to people of the opposite sex, the entire court should be recused.”

—  Tammye Nash

AG Holder says DOJ will file briefs with SCOTUS supporting equality

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has issued this statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear cases on marriage equality and the Justice Department’s intention to file “friend of the court” briefs in support of marriage equality:

“After the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court sent a powerful message that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This landmark decision marked a historic step toward equality for all American families.

“The Supreme Court has announced that it will soon hear several cases raising core questions concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriages. As these cases proceed, the Department of Justice will remain committed to ensuring that the benefits of marriage are available as broadly as possible. And we will keep striving to secure equal treatment for all members of society — regardless of sexual orientation.

“As such, we expect to file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in these cases that will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans. It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans — no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love.”

—  Tammye Nash

Lane: 5th Circuit court should still rule

Neel Lane

Neel Lane (photo by Erin Moore)

Neel Lane, attorney the plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case recently heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals says that even though the U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear marriage equality cases in April to decide the issue nationwide, he and his clients still want a ruling from the 5th Circuit court.

In an statement issued this afternoon (Friday, Jan. 16), shortly after the SCOTUS decision was announced, Lane said:

“It is clear now that the Supreme Court is poised to answer the great civil rights question of our generation: Does every citizen have the right to marry the person they love, irrespective of that person’s gender? We believe that the Fifth Circuit should still answer this question independently — and in the affirmative — because our clients have already waited too long for equality and justice.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said of the announcement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide — and it’s time. Freedom to Marry’s national strategy has been to build a critical mass of marriage states and critical mass of support for ending marriage discrimination, and after a long journey and much debate, America is ready for the freedom to marry.

“But couples are still discriminated against in 14 states, and the patchwork of discrimination harms families and businesses throughout the country. We will keep working hard to underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court’s bringing the country to national resolution, so that by June, all Americans share in the freedom to marry and our country stands on the right side of history.”

According to a commenter on the Freedom to Marry website, this is the schedule for the cases:

“The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015.”

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: SCOTUS to rule on marriage equality

Texas plaintifss

Plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case listen as their attorney, Neel Lane, center, speaks at a press conference outside the courthouse in New Orleans after the 5th Circuit court hearing on Jan. 9. Plaintiffs are Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon of Austin and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano. (Photo by Erin Moore)

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today (Friday, Jan. 16) to hear arguments in four cases challenging marriage equality. The justices are expected to hear arguments in the cases in April and issue a ruling by June, according to reports by CNN and others.

The court will hear appeals from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan — all four of which are in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate court to have ruled against marriage equality since SCOTUS’ landmark U.S. v Windsor decision in June 2013.

In the first week of 2015, Florida became the 36th marriage equality state. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriages

The Supreme Court last October declined to hear appeals in several cases challenging same-sex marriage bans, all of which had been decided by federal appellate courts in favor of equality.The decision by the court launched a wave of new marriage equality states and appeared to indicate that the court stands in favor of marriage equality.

The court also declined in December to extend a stay on the federal trial court ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban in Florida.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last Friday, Jan. 9, in marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Although there is no word yet when the 5th Circuit court might issue a decision in those cases, marriage equality supporters feel the decision will come down in their favor.

—  Tammye Nash

Newly engaged couple Sam and Cammisano post bday engagement pic

SameVitoThis is just in: Michael Sam just posted on his Facebook page a photo, apparently taken on Sam’s birthday last week, a picture of himself on one knee. No, he’s not listening to a coach give a pep talk. It appears to be the moment of his proposal to fiance Vito Cammisano. Cute couple. And how romantic!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Hot gay dads in Nikon ad

gaydadsOK, first off: Who doesn’t wish they had dads as hot and attentive as they two men, Kordale and Kaleb? When their Instagram selfie went viral, though, some folks (anti-gay, anti-black, anti-brains) railed against them. But Nikon begged to differ, and now features the Atlanta couple in a new ad. Anyone who doubts that “gay parenting” is just “parenting” (the way, frankly, “same-sex marriage” is becoming simply “lifelong misery” … I kid, I kid) needs to watch this piece. Worst thing about it? They keep their damn shirts on!

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

New Texas AG Paxton not happy with how things went in New Orleans

Rep. Ken Paxton

Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton

As one of his first acts as Texas’ new attorney general, Ken Paxton weighed in on the 5th Circuit oral arguments on marriage equality heard on Friday, Jan. 9, in New Orleans. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with how things went.

“In 2005, Texans overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I am committed to defending the Texas Constitution, the will of our citizens and this sacred institution,” Paxton wrote.

While the 5th Circuit was hearing appeals on marriage cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the Supreme Court was holding a conference to decide which additional cases it may hear this session.

The court may announce as soon as Monday, Jan. 12, if it will hear a marriage equality case. If so, Paxton can defend the Texas constitution all he wants, but the Supreme Court ruling will take precedence.

—  David Taffet