This Week in Marriage Equality

Marriage_Equality_Map11-26Tennessee

Tennessee, a state where first cousins can marry, filed a brief asking the Supreme Court not to take a case filed by plaintiffs challenging that state’s marriage law.

The 6th Circuit was the first appeals court to support a state’s right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples in offering marriage and the benefits it provides. Other states in the 6th Circuit — Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky — have asked the Supreme Court to hear their cases.

Florida

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who believes in traditional marriage so much she’s been married three times, filed a 40-page emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Clarence Thomas, who is in charge of the 11th Circuit, is likely to stay the decisions that declared the state’s marriage law unconstitutional. The current stay expires in January and the lower court said it will not renew.

Scotland

Ten months after the Scottish Parliament approved marriage equality, the law has come into effect. Couples may file a “notice of intention” and then hold marriage ceremonies 15 days later. Those who already have civil partnerships may upgrade to marriage without the wait time.

Northern Ireland is now the only part of the United Kingdom without marriage equality.

Kansas

Marriage but not marriage equality has come to Kansas. Counties are issuing marriage licenses, but the state is not recognizing them. A recent report from TV station KAKE in Wichita says:

“They’re trying to get on their husbands’ or wives’ insurance. They’re trying to update their drivers’ licenses,” said Thomas Witt, the executive director of LGBT advocate group Equality Kansas. “There is one couple that applied for a mortgage. The mortgage was approved but the mortgage company would not allow them to apply as married, even though they had a valid, legal marriage license from the state of Kansas.”

Finland

The Finnish Parliament voted in favor of marriage equality on Monday, Dec. 15. The proposal went to the country’s president for signature.

Finland is the last remaining Scandinavian country without marriage equality.

—  David Taffet

Mississippi pastor wants to marry his horse

horse

A picture of the pastor and his fiance via Twitter.

A Mississippi pastor trotted out his horse in a wedding dress to protest the marriage equality ruling in that state proving some pastors are simply horses asses.

Edward James of Bertha Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson dressed a horse named Charlotte in a wedding dress and brought her to the federal courthouse in the state capital. He held a sign that read: “The next unnatural law … Do you take this horse to be your unnatural wedded spouse to have and to hold?”

Of course, no one, except this presumed heterosexual pastor, wants to marry a horse. No one in the Jackson media asked the pastor if he had already consummated his relationship with Charlotte.

While the pastor protested, Charlotte grazed on grass on the median in front of the courthouse. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger didn’t report if James was cited for allowing his fiance to eat public property or if animal control took Charlotte into custody to investigate James for abuse.

What’s disturbing is this horse’s ass of a pastor equates gays and lesbians with animals. He doesn’t understand the difference between a consenting relationship between two adults and marrying a horse.

He also refuses to understand that no one requires any minister to perform a wedding between any two people and ministers refuse to wed some couples for any number of reasons all the time. Any legitimate member of the clergy fully understands this.

“Next, they’ll want to marry their horse” is a disingenuous argument used as a last gasp by bigots in churches who are not promoting freedom of religion. Many faiths recognize and embrace same-sex marriage. Rather than promoting freedom of religion, pastors like James are religious Nazis who want to impose their own faith on everyone else.

Or they’re just horses asses.

And one final thought. Judging by the picture, Charlotte’s dress is on upside down. Obviously this couple would benefit from a gay wedding planner.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: South Carolina’s continued fight against marriage equality may bite it in the ass

AttorneyGeneralAlanWilson

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson

CORRECTION:

Attorneys for the Kleckley/Condon case in Charleston, S.C. filed for reimbursement of $151,709 in legal fees. Those representing Bradacs and Goodwin have not yet filed for reimbursement of legal fees.

UPDATE:

Attorneys in Wisconsin have filed for reimbursement of $1.2 million in legal fees after successfully challenging that state’s marriage ban. Plaintiffs claim the large fee is due to the state’s vigorous defense of the law that discriminates against gay and lesbian couples.

ORIGINAL POST:

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced he will continue to fight marriage equality in the state, so the winning side is requesting the state pay its legal fees.

The case was filed by Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin, who were married in Washington, D.C. Bradacs is a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper and Goodwin is an Air Force veteran. They have three children. They won their case by summary judgement and Wilson’s request for a stay was denied.

South Carolina is in the 4th Circuit where Wilson remains the only attorney general continuing to fight marriage equality. Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina — all also in the 4th Circuit — all became marriage equality states after the Supreme Court rejected a Virginia appeal in October.

Now, the attorneys for Bradacs and Goodwin have filed a petition in federal court seeking $152,709 in compensation for legal fees. The attorneys said that, if successful, the money will go to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the South Carolina Equality Coalition.

Should the marriage equality attorneys prevail, defending discrimination could become expensive for Wilson and the defenders of bigotry because the attorney general continues to defend other marriage equality suits as well.

Federal law informally refers to lawyers acting in the public interest as private attorneys general. When defending basic constitutional rights, the law allows the winning plaintiffs to seek compensation from the losing defendant because citizens must hire their own attorneys to defend their basic rights.

No word on plaintiffs in other states also seeking compensation.

—  David Taffet

Same-sex couples half as likely to divorce as straights

Williams-Institute-Logo copyA new study by the Williams Institute found that gay and lesbian couples who marry are half as likely to divorce as straight couples.

The study found that 1.1 percent of same-sex couples dissolve their relationships each year while 2 percent of opposite-sex couples divorce.

While same-sex marriage is new in most states, the statistics include 13 years of data from domestic partnerships in California and almost 10 years of data from civil unions in New Jersey.

The study also found female couples are more likely than male couples to formalize their relationships. Also, even in states that already had marriage equality, same-sex couples were more likely to marry after the Windsor decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

—  David Taffet

Plano passes nondiscrimination ordinance, but with limits

PlanoWith Toyota moving U.S. headquarters to Plano, the Plano City Council this week addressed concerns expressed by the company earlier this year about the city and state’s lack of protections for its LGBT residents.

Last night (Monday, Dec. 8), the council expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity — but the ordinance comes with quite a few restrictions. Religious, political, governmental, educational and non-profit organizations are exempt, except those doing business with the city.

There’s a bathroom clause that allows businesses to segregate restrooms based on gender. That condition may be taken by some as a green light to discriminate against transgender employees and patrons of businesses, despite protection based on gender identity.

The governmental exemption doesn’t exempt Plano from discriminating, but it doesn’t require Collin County to provide the same protections in order to continue working with the city.

Liberty Institute was at the Plano City Council meeting to call the ordinance unconstitutional and threatening to sue the city if it passed.

Plano had a population of 270,000 in the last census, making it the ninth largest city in Texas and 70th largest city in the U.S.

—  David Taffet

Baylor would flunk HEI but passes patient care with flying colors

BaylorAlthough a presidential executive order requires hospitals to give same-sex partners the same privileges as opposite sex partners, it’s good to see when that’s working locally.

Several years ago, after a Florida hospital refused to allow a lesbians to see her wife before her wife died, I surveyed local hospitals about what their policies.

Parkland said all families were welcome and told me they were reviewing their policies to make sure that was carried out. As a result of their review, they put several additional protections in place.

Other hospitals in the area? Not so much. Presbyterian, Baylor, Medical City and Methodist either refused to answer or told me they’d get back to me and never did.

Around that time, Baylor even dropped all family memberships at its Tom Landry Fitness Center in order to avoid offering one gay couple the couples’ price.

This year, Baylor declined to participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s Hospital Equality Index, but we know they offer no partner benefits and have no nondiscrimination policies in place.

So when my partner went to Baylor yesterday, I was curious just what sort of reception we’d receive.

I dropped Brian at Baylor in the morning for an examination. At noon, he said a minor procedure was scheduled for 3 p.m. So I headed over to the hospital at about 2 p.m.

Brian listed me as his husband on admission papers.

When I arrived at the emergency room, the only question I was asked was, “Are you family?”

I said yes, was given a pass and taken to his room.

When he was wheeled to the endoscopy unit, the nurses and doctor explained to me exactly what the procedure would entail. After the procedure, the doctor came into the waiting room to tell me Brian was fine, what he found and how I should care for him over the next week.

Of course, any policy of treating same-sex partners equally relies on personnel carrying it out properly. One person’s bigotry set off a chain of events in the case of the fitness center membership. Had the couple’s membership been quietly approved, a complaint wouldn’t have been filed against Baylor and the hospital wouldn’t have received negative publicity during the city’s year-long investigation.

It takes wonderful medical professionals to understand it doesn’t matter who’s going to be caring for their patient. They were just glad their patient had someone to care for him.

Sometimes it seems we spend too much time reporting on the negative and we forget to report when things work exactly the way they should. And something routine like going to the hospital shouldn’t be news. But if I was thinking about just how we’d be treated, I thought others might be thinking the same in case they need to be hospitalized.

In our case, no one batted an eye at our relationship. No one cared. I was simply the family member — the person who’d care for the patient when he was sent home. Nothing special. That shouldn’t be news, but maybe it is.

So I’m delighted to report Baylor passed with flying colors.

—  David Taffet

Texas won’t issue driver’s license to gay man because he’s married

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 1.11.38 PMAccording to a report in the Des Moines Register, an Iowa gay couple who moved to an Austin suburb can’t get Texas drivers license because of their marriage.

Michael Miller Gribble changed his name on all legal documents after he and his husband married. When they moved to Texas, he brought his marriage license and birth certificate to apply for his new driver’s license. He was turned away because Texas won’t recognize a marriage license from a same-sex couple as proof of a name change.

He was told he could either get a divorce or a legal name change. Opposite-sex couples do not need a court-order to change last names. A marriage license is proof of the change.

The newspaper reports that couples from Iowa have had similar problems in Nebraska, Florida and South Dakota. Iowa has been a marriage-equality state since 2009.

Gribble applied for a passport that will reflect his new name. He can use that as proof of who he is rather than a marriage license and birth certificate.

He pointed out the extra cost and inconvenience involved and pointed out the unfair financial penalties of being gay or lesbian that goes against the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

This isn’t the first time that the state of Texas has refused to issue a driver’s license because of a same-sex-marriage-related name change. It happened earlier this year to a lesbian who legally married her female partner in California and then moved with her wife to Texas. And in October, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced on Twitter that the state refused to give her 16-year-old daughter a driver’s license because the girl’s birth certificate listed two moms.

—  David Taffet

The Conservative Conundrum: Does anti-gay bigotry trump negative economic impact?

Which of these images really matters most to conservatives? Because their policies are at odds with themselves

holding handsConservatives have been beating the dual drumbeat of “family values” (i.e., hate-based bigotry) and “fiscal responsibility” (i.e., cutting taxes on the rich and denying services to the poor). But what if these policies were verifiably at odds with each other? What if being anti-marriage-equality was also anti-growth?

Well that’s just what the consulting firm Oliver Wyman has figured out.

In a report released last month called The Cost of Inconsistency: Quantifying the Economic Burden to American Business from the Patchwork Quilt of Marriage Laws, the authors arrived at some staggering conclusions. Among them: Every day of marriage inequality across the nation costs the private sector at least $3.5 million (the annual cost would pay the salaries of 19,000 workers); same-sex couples pay more in taxes than similarly-situated opposite-sex couples, and states without marriage equality bear the brunt of this burden (what about cutting taxes as a tenet of conservatism?); the five-year savings since the overturning of DOMA is estimated at $3.3 billion … but if marriage laws were uniform nationwide, it would amount to $9.7 billion.

So the question is: With marriage equality having such a profound fiscal impact, why resist it?

They might argue that inconsistency is the problem … so what we need is a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage. Of course, that’s idiotic, since they fought like dogs to let each state decide, and many states (and the Supreme Court more or less) have decided already that same-sex marriage is a right. If even one (not to mention 30-something) state finds the right, then the others much follow suit, not go regressive.

For the Huckabees and Santorums and Perrys still not convinced, the report offered this quote from an Ohio small businessman. He said:

“We are a fast-growing tech business committed to building our business in Cleveland. It’s been hard enough to compete with New York, Chicago, or D.C. for talent, but now we are at a further disadvantage because Ohio doesn’t recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. I know of cases where corporations want key employees to transfer to Ohio but they refuse because our state doesn’t recognize their marriage. This puts Ohio business at a disadvantage in the fight for recruiting talent.”

Talent, GOPers. You want to encourage talent. Entrepreneurialship. Fairness. Equality is a tide that lifts all boats. If you weren’t so busy pandering to the Religious Right in this country because you’re terrified they won’t be terrified, you’d already have done the right thing. Which, as it turns out, is also the “Right” thing.

You can read (or download) the full report here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: 11th Circuit refuses to extend stay on marriage equality in Florida

Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 3.02.46 PMEquality Florida has just announced that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay placed on a lower court’s ruling overturning the Sunshine State’s ban on marriage equality.

This clears the way for same-sex couples to begin applying for marriage licenses late on Jan. 5 when the current stay expires.

Nadine Smith, Equality Florida CEO, said, “We are thrilled … . Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it’s time to break out the wedding bells. Florida is ready for the freedom to marry.”

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued his ruling declaring Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Aug. 21 in two federal marriage cases that had been consolidated — Brenner v. Scott  and Grimsley and Albu v. Scott. The state, represented by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, had asked the 11th Circuit Court to extend the stay until the appeals process is complete. Today, the 11th Circuit said no to that request.

—  Tammye Nash

Mike Rawlings will run for re-election as mayor in 2015

Rawlings

Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed today (Tuesday, Dec. 2) that he will run for re-election next May, telling Dallas Morning News that he still has some “big bold goals” left to accomplish.

In the campaign leading up to his first election as Dallas mayor in 2011, Rawlings courted the LGBT vote. But he drew the community’s ire, beginning in early 2012, when he repeatedly refused to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality and in 2013 refused to support a council resolution supporting marriage equality. At the time, he called the resolution a misuse of the council’s time and blocked it from being placed on the council agenda.

But Rawlings reversed that stance this year, voting in May, along with 12 other council members, to pass a resolution that was “a comprehensive statement of support” that directs city staff to evaluate and fix the inequities for LGBT employees in city employment.

Rawlings, 60, is also the former CEO of Pizza Hut and a former chief executive of the Tracy-Locke ad agency, and a vocal supporter of efforts to end domestic violence.

—  Tammye Nash