Montana becomes No. 35

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17

By the end of November, the orange and purple should be blue on this map.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for same-sex couples’ marriages in Montana.

Today’s (Wednesday, Nov. 19) ruling follows a favorable marriage ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in cases out of Idaho and Nevada. The circuit court holds jurisdiction over Montana, as well as Alaska and Arizona, which also have the freedom to marry.

Although Montana can appeal to the 9th Circuit, that court has refused to stay marriage rulings for other states. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t stayed rulings in circuits where it rejected appeals. So marriage in Montana is likely to begin over the next few days.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Montana’s same-sex couples and their loved ones want what all families want: joy, protections, security, and respect — and that’s what the freedom to marry is all about. This ruling, in keeping with nearly every other court that has ruled in more than a year, brings us to 35 states with the freedom to marry — but we are not done until we end marriage discrimination in all 50 states. It’s time for the Supreme Court to affirm the freedom to marry nationwide and bring our country to national resolution for all loving and committed couples in every state.”

More than 50 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

South Carolina marriage appeal turned down

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down a request to stay marriage equality in South Carolina.

Although the 4th Circuit has not issued any rulings directly regarding South Carolina’s marriage equality ban, the court has ruled that Virginia’s marriage equality ban is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review that ruling means that the 4th Circuit’s decision in the Virginia case extends to all the other others under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

North Carolina and West Virginia had already complied. South Carolina balked and has been using a variety of delaying tactics.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, South Carolina will become marriage equality state No. 34 on Thursday, Nov. 20.

 

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma grants first same-sex divorce

oklahoma-marriageAs marriage equality spreads across the country, there’s a major lesson the gay and lesbian community needs to learn: Just because you CAN get married, doesn’t mean you SHOULD get married.

Although Oklahoma has had marriage equality for almost two months, it’s already had its first same-sex divorce. It’s not as bad as it sound, however.

Deanne and Julie Baker of Oklahoma City married in Iowa in 2012. They tried to divorce over the summer, but the Oklahoma court rejected their petition, because it didn’t recognize the marriage. Once marriage equality hit the state, the petition was accepted on Oct. 15 and the couple is divorced.

So remember, if you visit a marriage equality state to marry and you then consider divorce, Texas is neither a marriage equality state nor a divorce equality state. And a couple can only divorce in their home state, unless at least one of them establishes residency elsewhere.

—  David Taffet

Pack your bags and head for Ole Miss to git hitched later this week. Maybe.

mississippi-flag-e1387132309472“Gay couples could start obtaining marriage licenses in Mississippi as early as this week if the predictions of at least six top legal scholars nationwide hold true,” according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

That’s Jackson, MISSISSIPPI.

Mississippi with the Confederate flag in its state flag. Yes, the state that beats Texas with worse healthcare and a worse education system. Looking at a map, it’s the one two states to the right. Mississippi might beat Texas to marriage equality by 15 states.

And Mississippi was our only real competition in the race to be last in equality. A Mississippi victory positions Texas nicely to be last.

However, the 5th Circuit, one of the most conservative courts in the country, would almost certainly stay a decision to allow marriage equality. Wouldn’t they?

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard the case on Monday, Nov. 17. He was appointed by President Barack Obama. No Obama or Clinton appointee has ruled against marriage equality since the Windsor decision in June 2013. A quick decision is expected. Like this week. And they just might sneak in a few marriages before the 5th Circuit stays any ruling.

The 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear appeals of Texas and Louisiana cases on Jan 5. If this ruling is issued quickly, it could be heard then as well.

—  David Taffet

This Week in Marriage Equality: Kansas poised to become No. 33

PrintKansas

Kansas officials asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to place a stay on marriage equality while its case works its way through the courts. Either Kansas officials are just dumb or they’re looking for ways to delay equality.

The 10th Circuit already ruled that marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah violate due process and were created out of animus toward gays and lesbians. Why Kansas officials think that same court would rule the Kansas law doesn’t violate due process and there’s no animus there because, well, Dorothy is from Kansas, is anyone’s guess.

The court gave the state a one-week stay. That stay ends on Tuesday, Nov. 11, unless Justice Sonia Sotomayor grants a stay. However, even though the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the 8th Circuit’s Utah and Oklahoma rulings, they’ve already said they didn’t want to hear those cases. There’s no reason to stay the Oklahoma and Utah rulings for Kansas.

Mississippi

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s marriage ban on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Reeves was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama. Bye bye Mississippi marriage ban.

A decision would be appealed to the 5th Circuit, which also includes Texas and Louisiana and which has not yet weighed in on marriage equality. That court is considered among the most conservative and could come down on the side of discrimination. The 5th Circuit will hear the Louisiana and Texas appeals in January.

Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky

Plaintiffs in the cases in the four states in the 6th Circuit — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — whose marriage bans were upheld last week will all appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In any of the cases, plaintiffs could have asked for an en banc hearing in which all of the 6th Circuit judges would have heard the case. Instead, rather than delaying the case and hoping for a nationwide resolution of the issue by the end of June 2015, they each decided for a direct appeal.

Because of the split among circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court is compelled to take a marriage case, but could delay hearing a case until next session. Since the 6th Circuit issued just one decision for all four states, the court could decide to hear from all states or could choose just one appeal.

—  David Taffet

6th Circuit upholds marriage discrimination

Ruling is first at appellate level to go against equality, establishes need for SCOTUS to rule

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

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In a decision that will compel the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of marriage equality bans, a panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, Nov. 6, that it is not unconstitutional for a state to ban marriage licenses for same-sex couples or refuse to recognize marriage licenses such couples obtain from other states.

It is the first federal appeals court to make such a ruling, and this one reversed six lower court rulings in four states, setting it on a direct path to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many court observers believe they know how the Supreme Court will rule: that such bans are unconstitutional. That’s because on Oct. 6, there were not even four justices willing to hear appeals in defense of such bans. And the 40-page Sixth Circuit panel decision now creates a conflict among the circuits, essentially compelling the Supreme Court to make a definitive ruling on the issue.

The 2-to-1 decision from the Sixth Circuit was what many had also predicted. The two Republican appointees — both appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush — upheld the state bans. The one Democratic appointee — a Clinton choice — voted in dissent.

Writing for the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton acknowledged the futility of his ruling in its second sentence: “From the vantage point of 2014, it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen.”

But, echoing statements he made during oral argument in August, Sutton said the approval of same-sex marriage should be “in the hands of state voters” and that the Supreme Court’s 1972 summary dismissal of Minnesota gay couple’s appeal (in Baker v. Nelson) still binds lower courts to uphold the bans by other states.

“Respect for democratic control over this traditional area of state expertise ensures that ‘a statewide deliberative process that enable[s] its citizens to discuss and weigh arguments for and against same-sex marriage’ can have free and reasonable rein.”

As for licenses granted by other states, Sutton said, “States have always decided for themselves when to yield to laws of other states.”

Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal’s director of constitutional litigation, said her group is “extremely disappointed” and that the decision “highlights the need for the U. S. Supreme Court to right this injustice.”

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said the decision was “compeletly out of step with the Supreme Court’s clear signal last month” and “out of step with the majority of the American people.”

He also said there are at least two rational reasons for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples: One is that government “got into the business of defining marriage … to regulate sex, most especially the intended and unintended effects of male-female intercourse.”

“It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws [that men and women complement each other biologically], that created the policy imperative,” wrote Sutton.

“If it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage,” Sutton wrote later in the decision.

The other reason, Sutton said, is “a state might wish to wait and see before changing a norm that our society [like all others] has accepted for centuries.” Noting that Michigan voters approved its ban just one year after same-sex marriage became possible in Massachusetts, Sutton said, “A state still assessing how this has worked, whether in 2004 or 2014, is not showing irrationality, just a sense of stability and an interest in seeing how the new definition has worked elsewhere.”

While Sutton acknowledged that there are costs to same-sex couples of denying them the right to vote, that harm “demands an answer — but from elected legislators, not life-tenured judges.”

He saw no evidence that the bans were born of animus but, rather, were motivated by “fear that the courts would seize control over an issue that people of good faith care deeply about.”

“[T]he institution of marriage arose independently of [the] record of discrimination” against gays, wrote Sutton.

Oddly, Sutton’s ruling acknowledged only 19 states and the District of Columbia as having allowed same-sex couples to marry. He did not mention that another nine states began issuing licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeals from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits.

Sutton said the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, had no impact on the panel majority’s ruling in the Sixth Circuit cases. He said Windsor hinged on DOMA’s “unprecedented intrusion into the states’ authority over domestic relations.”

Sutton said the Supreme Court’s action in denying review of the seven appeals it refused in October expressed no opinion on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage.

“A decision not to decide is a decision not to decide,” wrote Sutton.

In dissent, Judge Martha Daughtery derided the majority opinion, saying it “wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional questions” and instead occupies itself with the question of “who should decide” and exhibiting a “reverence for ‘proceeding with caution’.”

“If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate,” wrote Daughtery, “our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”

The Sixth Circuit decision and dissent was addressed in federal district court rulings in six cases involving state bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee: DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges (Ohio), Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear (Kentucky), and Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee).

The ruling represents the marriage equality movement’s second court loss since 2012 when a federal judge in Nevada ruled against same-sex couples in Sevcik v. Sandoval. The first loss was from a federal district court judge in Louisiana in Robicheaux v. Caldwell on Sept. 3.

The Fifth Circuit announced on Oct. 28 that it would hear oral arguments in the Louisiana case and one from Texas on Jan. 5.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Marriage equality comes to Kansas

Well, if Fred Phelps weren’t already a-spin in his grave, today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree  in favor of marriage equality in Kansas must have turned ol’ Fred into a veritableScreen shot 2014-11-04 at 3.25.38 PM whirling dervish.

According to a press release from Freedom to Marry, “today’s win in Kansas is in line with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in Oklahoma and Utah, which took effect on October 6.  Kansas is one of the six states in the 10th Circuit, and presently the only one not yet issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, said, “Yet another judge —  this time in Kansas — has found marriage discrimination to be unconstitutional, joining the nearly unanimous, bipartisan wave of pro-freedom to marry rulings in recent months. Attempts to delay the freedom to marry across the country are not only a waste of time and resources, but also prolong the harms and indignity that same-sex couples and their families continue to endure because of marriage discrimination. It is time for the remaining courts to finish the job and ensure the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in America.”

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage equality updates from around most of the country … but not Texas

Marriage_Equality_MapSouth Carolina

After the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles refused to allow Julie McEldowney to use her married name on her driver’s license, she filed suit against the state. She had already changed her name legally with the Social Security Administration.

Nebraska

Those wacky Catholics who are following the Pope and not a bunch of out-of-touch cardinals and bishops.

Omaha’s Creighton University, a Jesuit school, will offer benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. The move comes after the local Catholic archbishop voiced objections to the decision. The archbishop objected but school president the Rev. Timothy Lannon said that Creighton must also meet the needs of its employees and remain competitive with other universities.

Arizona

Since marriage equality came to Arizona last week, county clerks in all 15 counties have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. An estimated 300 licenses have been issued, meaning that roughly $20,000 has been brought to the state’s economy.

Montana

The Great Falls Tribune in Montana has published an editorial in favor of marriage equality.

“It’s time for the state of Montana to quit wasting taxpayers’ money and to accept gay marriage in Montana, even if churches can go their own way on this matter,” the editorial board wrote. “Some people still want to make political points with this issue, but we say, it’s too late for that. It’s all over.”

v.vember 20.

Kansas

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree has scheduled a hearing in the case challenging Kansas’ marriage ban for this Friday, Oct. 31 at 2:30 p.m.

Wyoming

Now that Wyoming is a marriage equality state, Equality Wyoming is working on adding sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination law. While it’s legal to get married in the state, a marriage license can be followed by a pink slip.

Missouri

While Missouri is still not a marriage equality state, it does recognize out-of-state marriages. So the Missouri State Employee’s Retirement System decided to add equal benefits for same-sex spouses.

That contrasts to Dallas where the city’s Employee Retirement Fund and Police and Fire Retirement boards have put roadblocks in the way of treating its LGBT employees equally despite a Dallas City Council mandate. The head of the ERF even had the gall to claim the board was doing everything it could to change the regulations after voting against a policy change herself.

—  David Taffet

Oral arguments set in Texas and Louisiana marriage cases

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Atty. Gen Greg Abbott pandering in front of the 11 Commandments monument at the Texas Capitol. Yes, I know there are 10, but look closely at the monument and you’ll find 11 listed, which makes this among my favorite fake religion monuments.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear the Texas and Louisiana marriage equality cases on Jan. 5.

In September, Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana became the first federal district court judge to uphold a state’s marriage ban since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Texas’s marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional by San Antonio District Judge Orlando Garcia in DeLeon v. Perry. His decision is stayed pending appeal.

In his appeal, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott resorted to using the “pedophile, incest and marrying farm animals” defense. Because underpopulation has been a worldwide plague, Abbott uses the responsible procreation defense that’s been thrown out by court after court.

What we found most interesting was his inclusion of a story from Dallas Voice written by Anna Waugh about a case from Fort Worth that is still pending before a trial court. Two Fort Worth men who claim they are heterosexual would like to get married in Texas.

From the brief (pages 23-24):

Not all persons who wish to marry a same-sex partner will have a homosexual orientation. The plaintiffs in McNosky v. Perry, No. 1:13-CV-00631-SS (W.D. Tex.), have publicly admitted that they have a heterosexual orientation and plan to marry each other as a statement of solidarity with same-sex couples. See Anna Waugh, Tarrant County Marriage

 

—  David Taffet

This Week in Marriage Equality

Westboro-horiz

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has a new ally in his fight to stop marriage equality in his state — Westboro Baptist Church

The Department of Justice is a week late, but not one penny short. The department announced it will recognize marriages performed in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, bringing the total to 32 states, which includes all marriage-equality states. DOJ announced recognition of seven states last week.

Marriage-equality attorney Ted Olsen said the U.S. Supreme Court is at a point of no return with marriage equality.

“I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed,” Olson said. “To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered.”

However, officials in some of the new marriage equality states are throwing temper tantrums. Here’s how they’re dealing with it:

Idaho

State Sen. Steve Vicker suggested Idaho stop issuing marriage licenses altogether.

“If we’re not allowed to determine the standards for a marriage license, then maybe we should just not issue them,” Vicker told WorldNetDaily. “Another potential avenue I’m exploring is just eliminating marriage licenses in Idaho.”

Great idea. It’s usually called cutting off your nose despite your face and that’ll last until the first straight couple that planned a wedding in Idaho finds out they can’t get married.

North Carolina

After the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts ordered state court administrators to marry same-sex couples, 28 Republican state senators wrote a letter asking the order be reversed. They claim the order violates religious freedom. Senate leader Phil Berger promised to introduce legislation protecting state officials who wish not to marry or perform weddings for same-sex couples. Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis hired National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman to lead a legal team appealing a ruling that overturned the state’s marriage ban earlier this month.

Kansas

Kansas continues to resist coming into compliance with its circuit court and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Anti-gay Gov. Sam Brownback, who is leading the state’s opposition to marriage equality and is up for reelection next week, has a powerful new ally — Westboro Baptist Church. The God Hates Fags Church filed a motion in to join Brownback in his suit to stop equality.

In her motion to the court, church leader Margie Phelps, who is an attorney, included the entire stories of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Oddly, the story of Sodom is about the sin of not welcoming the stranger. It isn’t clear from her motion if she understood she was appealing to a U.S. court, not a religious court.

—  David Taffet