BREAKING: Judge strikes down Wyoming’s same-sex marriage ban

safe_imageA federal judge in Wyoming ruled today, Oct. 17, that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

As we reported yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl heard arguments on Oct. 16 to Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Skavdahl initially said that he would issue his ruling by 5:00 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.

But his ruling came sooner than anticipated.

Skavdahl stayed his ruling until Oct. 23 pending an appeal by state government officials.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who is up for re-election, said in a debate on Thursday, Oct. 16, before Skavdahl released his decision, that the state should not appeal the ruling.

—  James Russell

Wyoming federal judge to announce marriage equality decision by Monday

safe_imageMarriage equality may come to Wyoming as soon as Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl heard arguments today, Oct. 16, to Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Skavdahl said that he will issue his ruling by 5:00 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.

“We are grateful that the court has moved quickly in handling our case, which affects so many families across Wyoming who are seeking equal dignity and full legal recognition. We are confident that the judge will give this important case the consideration it deserves, and we look forward to the court’s decision,” said Wyoming Equality Executive Director Jeran Artery in a statement.

The case was brought by Wyoming Equality and four same-sex couples who requested an immediate order directing state officials to comply with two decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit establishing that a state’s refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two appeals from the Tenth Circuit striking down marriage equality bans, meaning all states within the Tenth Circuit, including Wyoming, must comply with those decisions.

“The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. The State of Wyoming is obligated to follow the law as interpreted by the Tenth Circuit,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney Chris Stoll. NCLR is one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs.

In 30 states, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry: AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI.

In an additional five states, including Wyoming, federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there: AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY.

In an additional 8 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts. In Texas and four other states, judges have struck down marriage bans — AR, FL, KY, MI, and TX — judges have struck down marriage bans. In three states — LA, OH and TN — judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

In Missouri, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected.

Courts have cases pending, but have yet to rule, in seven states: AL, GA, MO, MS, NB, ND and SD.

—  James Russell

Idaho becomes marriage equality state number … umm… lost count

When Idaho’s Atty. Gen. Lawrence Wasden withdrew his request for a stay on Monday, Oct. 13 and Gov. Butch Otter decided on Tuesday to stop challenging the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on marriage equality, that cleared the way for Idaho to become a marriage equality state.

While Texas and Mississippi continue to battle for last place, Idaho became marriage equality state No. 29. Or 32. We lost count.

Marriages started today in Idaho. Facebook friend Cindy Gross from Boise sent these pics and called the day very exciting. Gross works with the Add the Words campaign trying to get sexual orientation and gender identity added to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

“Couples getting married today didn’t want their pictures taken because they were afraid they’d lose their jobs,” she said.

But Boise was celebrating with city officials performing weddings. She said lots of straight people were out celebrating along with everyone else.

 

—  David Taffet

Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit

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Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to fast-track its review of two  lawsuits challenging bans on legally recognizing same-sex marriages in Texas and Louisiana, according to numerous reports, including this one at Bilerico.com.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin, one of two gay couples challenging the ban in Texas, asked Monday that the appellate court expedite the cases because Dimetman is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they want their marriage legally recognized before the child — due next March — is born. De Leon gave birth to their first child and Dimetman had to complete a second-parent adoption to be legally recognized as that child’s parent. Unless the couple’s 2009 Massachusetts wedding is recognized in Texas before the second child is born, only Dimetman will be automatically recognized as the child’s legal parent, forcing De Leon to go through the lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption process.

De Leon and Dimetman along with Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano are the second couple in the Texas case. The two have been together for about 14 years but are waiting for Texas to legally recognize same-sex marriage before tying the knot. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in February that the Texas gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

In the second case being reviewed by the 5th Circuit, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Sept. 3 upheld the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage, the first federal judge to rule against marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

Lambda Legal joined the case as council on Oct. 7.

Just three weeks after Feldman’s ruling, Judge Edward Rubin in Louisiana’s 15th Judicial District Court ruled, in the case Constanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, that the Louisiana marriage ban is unconstitutional.

So far, since the Windsor ruling last year, no federal appellate court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage bans. On Monday, Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals on seven cases from five states, leaving appellate decisions striking down bans from the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuit Courts in place. The 9th Circuit Court struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada the next day, and on Sunday, a federal judge in Alaska — which is part of the 9th Circuit — struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Appeals are also pending in the 6th and 11th Circuit Courts. Those two and the 5th Circuit are considered the most conservative in the country and the ones most likely to rule in favor of marriage bans.

—  Tammye Nash

Judge rules Alaska marriage ban unconstitutional

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Matt Hamby, left, and Chris Shelden, one of the five plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that has successfully challenged Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess has overturned Alaska’s ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Burgess’ order, issued today (Sunday, Oct. 12) in the case Hamby v. Parnell, would allow same-sex couples to begin marrying for the first time in Alaska.

Burgess’ ruling comes less than a week after the Ninth Circuit Court upheld lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho. Nevada state officials have chosen not to appeal the circuit court ruling, allowing couples to begin marrying there immediately. But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a stay of the ruling, affecting Idaho only, after Idaho state officials asked for the stay.

The Ninth Circuit Court’s jurisdiction encompasses Alaska, as well.

Burgess said that Alaska law banning same-sex marriages there and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages from jurisdictions that do recognize them is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to a report in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Read Burgess’ ruling in its entirety here.

—  Tammye Nash

Florida woman and her late wife are first same-sex couple to get legal recognition in Florida

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Arlene Goldberg, left, and her late wife Carol Goldwasser

The good news on marriage equality just keeps on coming this week.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from five states, covering seven lawsuits which in circuit courts of appeal had ruled same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. That cleared the way for weddings to start in five states for sure, plus six more states within those circuit courts’ jurisdictions.

Then the 9th Circuit Court upheld lower court rulings in two cases — from Nevada and Idaho — overturning bans there. Those rulings could affect three more states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granted a stay in that ruling insofar as Idaho is concerned, because state officials there asked for a stay. But Nevada officials have chosen not to appeal the ruling regarding their state — amid fears of a boycott by LGBT tourists and their allies in a state whose lifeblood is tourism — and AP was reporting Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 8, that Kennedy’s stay does not affect Nevada.

And now comes word from Equality Florida that the first same-sex marriage is being recognized there by state officials.

On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and even though his ruling was stayed, he ordered the state to issue a new death certificate for Carol Goldwasser that would name Arlene Goldberg, her partner of 47 years, as her legal wife.

Goldberg was added as a plaintiff in Grimsley and Alby v. Scott when the ACLU filed a motion of preliminary injunction in April asking the court to immediately stop enforcing the same-sex marriage ban there. Goldberg received the new death certificate on Wednesday, making her and Goldwasser the first same-sex couple to have their marriage legally recognized by the state.

Goldberg said it was difficult to express “how meaningful this is to me.”

She said, “For 47 years, Carol and I made our lives together, all the while being treated like strangers in the eyes of the law in Florida. It’s bittersweet that Carol isn’t here to share this joy with me, but for the first time in 47 years, our marriage was respected. Our relationship and commitment to each other is finally recognized.”

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, said Wednesday that while she and her organization share Goldberg’s joy, “Couples shouldn’t have to wait until one spouse dies to receive the recognition and dignity that they deserve.” Smith added that Equality Florida is “more committed than ever to seeing the day when all Florida couples and families and treated equally and fairly.”

Smith also called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to “drop their appeals and let marriage for all couples move forward in the Sunshine State.”

—  Tammye Nash

Idaho and Nevada marriage bans ruled unconstitutional

Las Vegas

Same-sex couples may soon have the right to get married by Elvis impersonators.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. The three-judge court voted unanimously.

Fearing a tourism boycott from the LGBT community, officials in Nevada previously said they will not appeal a ruling on their marriage law. The state already had domestic partnerships.

Idaho is more likely to ask for a stay and appeal the decision.

If the 11 states affected by yesterday’s Supreme Court decision not to hear five appeals all begin issuing licenses as well as today’s two states, the count will be 32 state + the District of Columbia with marriage equality to 18 states without. Texas, a “without” state, is becoming part of a very exclusive club that includes only Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North and South Dakota, Arizona, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Montana.

 

—  David Taffet

The wingnuts speak on SCOTUS decision not to hear marriage case appeals

On Monday, Oct. 6, the national LGBT community rejoiced and wedding bells began to ring in 11 new marriage equality states when the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would not hear appeals of circuit court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in five states.

But for the right wing faction of the U.S., that ringing wasn’t wedding bells, but a death knell.

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Bryan Fischer

Perhaps one of the most outrageous declarations came from Bryan Fisher, “director of issue analysis” for the so-called American Family Association. Fischer called the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the marriage appeals “the Dred Scott of gay marriage” and said that marriage equality is “as morally bankrupt and indefensible as the institution of slavery. Slavery ate away at America’s soul, and homosexual marriage will do the same thing, It is a deviant and grotesque caricature of the real thing. For this sexual debauchery to be normalized by the highest court in the land is a sign of the nation plunging headlong into a bottomless moral abyss.”

Jeremy Hooper, special projects consultant for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said that sometimes the best way to rebut what someone says is to get out of the way and just let them keep talking. So let me step aside and let the wingnuts speak. …

Right Wing Watch  rounded up responses from other wingnuts, including the Liberty Counsel, which issued a press release denouncing the Supreme Court’s “decision to watch marriage burn to ashes,” and accusing the justices of “dereliction of duty.”

Liberty Council Founder and Chairman Matt Staver declared, “Everyone will be affected by same-sex marriage because it is an intolerant agenda that will directly collide with religious freedom.”

The Family Research Council predicted that “more and more people [will] lose their livelihoods because they refuse to not just tolerate but celebrate same-sex marriage,” adding that the Supreme Court’s decision “will allow rogue lower court judges who have ignored history and true legal precedent to silence the elected representatives of the people and the voice of the people themselves by overturning state provisions on marriage. Even more alarming, lower court judges are undermining our form of government and the rights and freedoms of citizens to govern themselves. This judicially led effort to force same sex ‘marriage’ on people will have negative consequences for our republic, not only as it relates to natural marriage but also undermining the rule of and respect for law.”

FRC did not that the court’s rejection of the appeals “ensures that the debate over natural marriage will continue and the good news is that time is not on the side of those who want to redefine marriage.”

The National Organization for Marriage called for passage of a national marriage amendment: “…the only alternative to letting unelected judges impose their view of marriage on Americans across the country is to pursue a process that will allow the American people to decide for themselves what is marriage. It is critical not only to marriage but to the republican form of government in this country to amend the Constitution to reaffirm the meaning of marriage. We therefore call on the US Congress to move forward immediately to send a federal marriage amendment to the states for ratification.”

And Focus on the Family clamored that the decision will result in a “further expansion of threats to religious freedom.”

“Marriage has always been — and will always be — between a man and a woman. Ultimately, no court can change that truth,” Focus on the Family’s statement said. “So regardless of legal outcomes, we’ll continue to address the importance of one-man, one-woman marriage to families, society and especially for children who have a right to both a mother and a father. Our concern continues to be for children who deserve to grow up with both a mom and a dad, as well as for the religious freedom rights of people who strongly believe in God’s design for marriage and want to live consistently with those beliefs.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” and warned that SCOTUS will “reap a political whirlwind.” And the Florida Family Policy Council’s John Stemberger warned that the court “risks losing enormous institutional legitimacy” by ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Here’s a video of Bryan Fischer and his declaration of how SCOTUS imposed “sodomy-based marriage” on 11 states that voted against it.

—  Tammye Nash

SCOTUS rejects appeals in marriage cases

Decision means appellate rulings overturning gay marriage bans in 5 states stay in effect and stays on rulings are lifted.

 

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

In a surprise development, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday, Oct. 6, that it would not accept for review any of the seven appeals on same-sex marriage bans from five states.

The action means that the stays placed on lower court decisions in all five states — decisions that struck down bans on marriage for same-sex couples — are immediately lifted, making way for lower courts to issue orders requiring the states to stop enforcing their bans and begin issuing marriage licenses.

The action also means that six other states in the same federal circuits as the five states which had appeals before the high court will have to abide by the federal appeals court rulings in those circuits or take the unusual tact of asking their circuits for full bench review of their cases. A three-judge panel in all three circuits — the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth — struck down the bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

That means that very soon, same-sex couples will likely be able to marry in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, tipping the balance in favor of marriage equality, from the previous 19 states and D.C.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Tenth Circuit issued an order just minutes after the Supreme Court’s announcement was made public, lifting the stay in that state and alerting clerks in Utah that they should immediately abide by its ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers implied the Supreme Court announcement denying review of the cases was tantamount to a ruling.

“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws,” said Suthers in a press release. “By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place.”

He said Colorado clerks “must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples” soon after the Tenth Circuit issued its order.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker told reporters on his re-election campaign trail that the issue is “resolved” and there would be no further attempts to defend the state ban; Dane County announced it would issue licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

The Indiana attorney general posted a statement indicating the state would begin issuing licenses “soon.”

The Fourth Circuit issued its order mandating that states stop enforcing the bans at 1 p.m. EDT Monday. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has opposed that state’s ban, issued a press release saying that same-sex couples could begin obtaining marriage licenses as soon as that order is issued.

“Local clerks are receiving guidance and forms necessary to begin performing marriages today,” said Herring’s office, “and the Attorney General’s Office is working with the Governor’s Office and state agencies to implement any needed changes in light of this action.”

“A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through,” said Herring in a press release Monday morning shortly after the Supreme Court issued its “Orders List” indicating that the seven appeals –including three from Virginia—were being denied.

“This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history,” said Herring. “We will continue to fight discrimination wherever we find it, but today, we celebrate a moment when we move closer to fulfilling the promise of equality ignited centuries ago in Virginia, and so central to the American experience.”

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has been involved in the Tenth Circuit case out of Utah, said NCLR is “thrilled.”

“This is a huge step forward for Utah and the entire country,” said Minter. “We are hopeful that the other cases pending across the country will also vindicate the freedom to marry, so that all couples, no matter where they travel or live, will be treated as equal citizens and have the same basic security and protections for their families that other Americans enjoy.”

The Supreme Court’s announcement does not legally affect the remaining 20 states, but it could give courts in those other states and circuits some pause before upholding similar bans in those states and circuits. Some experts say they expect the Supreme Court will almost certainly take up an appeal should a federal appeals court rule such bans to be constitutional.

Prominent constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard University, who argued against bans on sodomy in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case, said “As soon as a solid split emerges, I fully expect the Court to grant [review],” said Tribe. “I’d watch the Sixth Circuit if I were you.”

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments August 6 in six marriage equality lawsuits from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The panel has yet to issue its opinion, but questions from two of the three judges during the argument gave repeated voice to various justifications for the bans.

Jon Davidson, national legal director for Lambda Legal, which is involved in a number of marriage equality cases, agrees that the Supreme Court will likely take a circuit decision from the Sixth or Fifth circuits if they conflict with the decisions rendered by the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. But he said he doesn’t think the high court would consider an appeal from a future circuit, such as the Ninth, which might agree with the previous circuits.

Davidson said there is a way that the six states in the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth circuits –who were not part of Monday’s batch of seven cases– could try to avoid or delay allowing same-sex couples to marry in those states. He said a state, such as South Carolina, could try and appeal an existing case to the full circuit bench in hopes of getting a different decision than that issued by the circuit’s three-judge panel. That seems like a long shot but one that may have political benefits for governors or attorneys general in more conservative states.

Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said she thinks the Supreme Court’s announcement today sends “a powerful signal to the many other courts considering the issue that there is no reason to delay and perpetuate the harms to same-sex couples around the nation.” Bonauto won the landmark case in Massachusetts that led to the first state allowing same-sex couples to marry in 2004; she also led the successful effort to overturn a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, marriage equality was legal in 19 states plus D.C. Under this latest action, marriage equality will now be the law in Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Assuming no state attempts to get a different decision from their circuit, marriage equality will likely go into effect soon in Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. If all 11 are added, the tally will be 30 states plus D.C. with marriage equality.

“We obviously need to get to a national resolution,  so the magic number is 50 states plus,” said GLAD’s Bonauto, “not 30.”

Openly gay U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) called the Supreme Court announcement Monday a “huge victory.”

“Love is love, family is family, and discriminating against anyone’s love, against anyone’s family, is not only wrong, it’s unconstitutional,” said Baldwin, in a press release. This is a huge step forward for our entire country being a place where every family’s love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law.”

Monday’s announcement came by way of a routine, but highly anticipated “Orders List” on the first official day of the Supreme Court’s 2014-15 session. As is typical, the document does not include any explanation for the petitions for appeal were not granted. In order to take a case, four justices must agree before the high court grants a petition for appeal. The fact that the justices did not take any of the seven cases means that at least six of the nine justices refused to hear the appeals that sought to determine whether the marriage bans were constitutional. The fact that six justices refused the appeals in these seven cases bodes well for marriage equality should the court later decide to hear an appeal from marriage equality supporters, should another circuit uphold the constitutionality of marriage bans.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash

SCOTUS declines marriage stays, adding up to 11 new equality states

Supreme-Court-building-permissionAs of this morning, there are five new marriage equality states, and that number could quickly grow to 11. That brings the total to 25, 31 once the courts clarify that the rulings apply to their entire circuits.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected  appeals from five states that lost cases challenging their bans on same-sex marriage at the appeals court level. Those five states — Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana — had appealed those rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in rejecting those appeals, the Supreme Court in essence upheld appellate court rulings declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

However, because the appellate courts had stayed their rulings pending the outcome of appeals, same-sex marriages in those five states had been on hold. Until today. With SCOTUS’ decision to reject the appeals, the stays are lifted and the weddings can commence.

The ruling of the appeals courts should apply to all states in those circuits that had cases heard or pending before those courts. That’s why the number of states with marriage equality in place could grow so quickly to 11.

Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming are in the same circuit as Utah and Oklahoma. West Virginia, North and South Carolina are in the same circuit as Virginia. Those additional states may also have marriage equality as of this morning.

So far all the federal appellate courts that have ruled on marriage equality cases have ruled against same-sex marriage bans. The fact that there has been no disagreement among the federal appellate courts is what allowed SCOTUS to, basically, punt on the issue.

However, the Fifth Circuit and the Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeals, both of which tend to be more conservative than other federal appellate courts, both have marriage equality cases pending. Should one or both of those appellate courts allow a marriage ban to stand, SCOTUS would then be forced to resolve the question once and for all.

Texas is among the states with marriage equality cases pending before the Fifth Circuit.

—  David Taffet