Judge to end Ohio ban on recognizing gay marriage

Al Gerhardstein

Attorney Al Gerhardstein, left, stands with several same-sex couples at a news conference Friday in Cincinnati. (AP Photo)

A federal judge said Friday that he will strike down Ohio’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, a move that stops short of forcing Ohio to perform same-sex weddings but will make the state recognize gay couples legally wed elsewhere, The Associated Press reported.

Judge Timothy Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban.

“I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio’s recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Black said. “(They’re) denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married.”

The civil rights attorneys who filed the February lawsuit did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and he did not say he would do so.

The Cincinnati-based legal team asked Black to declare that Ohio’s gay marriage ban is “facially unconstitutional, invalid and unenforceable,” and indicated that following such a ruling, the window would be open for additional litigation seeking to force the state to allow gay couples to marry in Ohio.

Attorneys for the state argued that it’s Ohio’s sole province to define marriage as between a man and a woman, that the statewide gay marriage ban doesn’t violate any fundamental rights, and that attorneys improperly expanded their originally narrow lawsuit.

“Ohio has made its own decision regarding marriage, deciding to preserve the traditional definition,” state’s attorneys argued in court filings ahead of Friday’s hearing.

They argued that prohibiting the state from enforcing its marriage ban would “disregard the will of Ohio voters, and undercut the democratic process.”

He didn’t say why he made the announcement on his ruling before he issues it. But by stating his intention ahead of his ruling, Black gave time for the state to prepare an appeal that can be filed as soon as he does.

—  Steve Ramos

Mozilla CEO quits after anti-gay contribution controversy

Firefox logoAlthough I’m not big on boycotts, I do choose which companies I do business with. So I began posting an earlier version of this story on my newly downloaded version of Safari. When I heard Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, however, I switched right back to Firefox.

Mozilla is the not-for-profit company that created the browser Firefox.

Soon after Eich was promoted on March 24, his $1,000 donation to support Proposition 8 that ended same-sex marriage in California for four years went public. Companies like OkCupid called on users to switch browsers.

In a series of interviews this week, Eich repeatedly refused to comment about the donation. In explaining his position and why he would remain at the head of the company that clearly includes LGBT equality as part of its corporate culture, he used twisted logic that a community like Mozilla should also support what many consider intolerant beliefs. Put another way, if you’re tolerant, you should tolerate my bigotry.

On Monday, Mitchell Baker, the chairwoman of Mozilla, wrote on her blog:

“Speaking as the Chairwoman, I want to speak clearly on behalf of both the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation: Mozilla supports equality for all, explicitly including LGBT equality and marriage equality.”

This afternoon, Baker updated the Mozilla blog.

“Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO” she said. “He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.”

Eich is one of the creators of Firefox. When his donation first came to light in 2012, his coworkers at Mozilla were surprised. He had never shown any indication of personally opposing equality or working against any LGBT employee’s equality at the company.

“My experience is that Brendan is as committed to opportunity and diversity inside Mozilla as anyone, and more so than many,” Baker said.

Once Eich was named CEO, websites like OKCupid encouraged its users to try another browser.

“Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid,” the company wrote in a letter to its users.

OkCupid explained that 8 percent of the relationships the site help form would be invalid if Eich had his way.

Now that Eich is gone, Baker wrote, “We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved. Thank you for sticking with us.”

OK. I tried using Safari. I didn’t really like it. Although I didn’t really want to use it, I felt like I couldn’t write the original story I had about Mozilla’s CEO on Firefox. Eich’s gone and I’m happy to say, I’m back.

—  David Taffet

Appeals court halts same-sex marriages in Michigan

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Jayne Rowse, left, looks at April DeBoer as she reacts during a news conference in Ferndale, Mich., on Friday. A federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday, the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. The two nurses who’ve been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerk’s offices Saturday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily, the Associated Press reported.

The order by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati came after Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.

“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”

Similar nuptials followed one after another, at times en masse, in at least four of Michigan’s 83 counties. Those four — Oakland, Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties — issued more than 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday.

DeJong said the threat of a stay was all the encouragement they needed.

“Come Monday, we might not be able to do it, so we knew we had a short window of time,” she said.

She was right. Later Saturday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals froze until at least Wednesday a decision by a lower court judge to overturn Michigan’s ban. The appeals court said the time-out will “allow a more reasoned consideration” of the state’s request to stop same-sex marriages.

The court’s order was posted just a few hours after it told the winning side to respond to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay by noon Tuesday.

In his appeal, Schuette noted the U.S. Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.

Voters approved the gay marriage ban in a landslide in 2004. But in Friday’s historic decision, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples.

Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout, said Saturday that a stay would preserve a state constitutional ban pending the appeal’s outcome. She declined to say whether the state would recognize the new marriages in that scenario.

“The courts will have to sort it out,” she said.

Yearout later said her office anticipates that the appeals court “will issue a permanent stay, just as courts have ruled in similar cases across the country.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to hold off on moving forward with any new benefits for the hundreds of same-sex couples who married during the three-week window until the courts resolved the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but were prohibited from approving any new marriages or benefits.

Utah made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, but that their validity would be decided by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Anna Kirkland, a University of Michigan professor who submitted an expert report in the Michigan case, said people who have received licenses are “legally married” regardless of what state officials do.

“A ruling from a federal judge on the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause … is binding on the state government,” said Kirkland, a professor of women’s studies and political science. “It’s the law of the land until or unless the Supreme Court says otherwise.”

—  Steve Ramos

Judge strikes down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban

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Judge Bernard Friedman

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

A federal judge in Detroit ruled Friday that Michigan’s ban against same-sex couples marrying violates the couples’ constitutional rights to equal protection.

The Michigan decision, from U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman (a Reagan appointee) falls squarely in line with rulings from federal district court judges in eight other states in the past year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) with U.S. v. Windsor. The other eight are all on appeal to their various courts of appeal. Some suggest the Michigan case, DeBoer v. Michigan, may have a better chance at reaching U.S. Supreme Court appeal because, unlike the others, it involved a two-week-long trial.

Friedman issued the DeBoer ruling two weeks after hearing closing arguments in the trial that gave the state of Michigan a chance to establish a rationale for banning same-sex couples from marrying.

Judge Friedman said he found the testimony from the state’s star witness, California sociologist Mark Regnerus, to be “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” He said he was unable to accord the testimony of three other state witnesses with “any significant weight,” because it was “largely unbelievable” and represents “a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request for a stay of Friedman’s decision and an appeal of the decision to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the Michigan decision shows that the “momentum for marriage equality is undeniable.”

DeBoer v. Michigan started out as a lawsuit to challenge a state law barring unmarried couples from adopting. April DeBoer and longtime partner Jayne Rowse were seeking to adopt three children they had been raising together, but while hearing arguments in that case last year, Judge Friedman suggested the plaintiffs amend their lawsuit to challenge the law barring same-sex couples from marrying.

The 10th Circuit will hear oral arguments in a case from Utah, Utah v. Kitchen, on April 10.

Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals removed the Nevada and Hawaii consolidated cases from the court’s calendar for April 9 in San Francisco.

On Thursday, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments in two lawsuits challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. The American Foundation for Equal Rights case, Bostic v. Virginia, and the ACLU-Lambda case, Harris v. Virginia, will be heard May 13.

Like Michigan, the other four cases — from Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma — are just arriving at their respective circuit courts.

Interesting factoid: From 1996 to 1999, one of Judge Friedman’s law clerks was Judith Levy, the lesbian recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the Detroit federal court. Levy was sworn into office at the Detroit courthouse on the same day Friedman issued his decision in the DeBoer case.

—  Steve Ramos

Judge issues injunction in Tennessee same-sex marriage case

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Judge Aleta Trauger

In a narrow ruling, a U.S. district court judge in Nashville issued a preliminary injunction late Friday afternoon, barring the state of Tennessee from denying recognition of marriage licenses obtained by three same-sex couples in other states.

The order applies only to these three couples and only while their lawsuit challenging the state’s refusal to recognize marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples else is pending, said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. But it represents yet another victory for marriage equality and another advance in a southern state.

NCLR and longtime lesbian legal activist Abby Rubenfeld filed the lawsuit, Tanco v. Tennessee, on behalf of four couples last October. (One couple subsequently dropped out of the lawsuit.) It challenges both the state constitutional language and statutory laws that ban recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples. Like so many other lawsuits filed in more than two dozen states around the country, the Tennessee lawsuit argues that the bans violate the couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

, a Clinton appointee, said in the order she issued Friday that “all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history.”

Trauger also noted that other pending lawsuits in other states may well determine the ultimate outcome of the Tanco challenge.

NCLR’s Minter pointed out that the lawsuit which just concluded a two-week trial in Detroit, for instance, could be appealed to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals relatively soon and potentially deciding the law for other 6th Circuit states, such as Tennessee.

The lead plaintiffs, Drs. Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty are both professors of veterinary medicine who married in 2011, while living in New York. Other plaintiffs include Sgt. First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thomas Kostura who married while living in New York, and John Espejo and Matthew Mansell who married in California.

Judge Trauger’s order noted that each couple, “When they interact with Tennessee officials or fill out official forms to identify themselves as married, they brace themselves for degrading experiences that often occur because of Tennessee’s refusal to recognize their marriages.”

The Tennessean newspaper reported Friday evening that the state’s attorney general is expected to defend the state’s ban. There is no word yet on whether the state will attempt to challenge Trauger’s very limited order.

—  Steve Ramos

Michigan’s own witnesses make the case against it and for marriage equality

Mark Regnerus

Mark Regnerus

Discredited University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus was called as Michigan’s star witness in a trial to determine whether that state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is legal.

Regnerus study showed that children whose heterosexual parents ever had a same-sex relationship had poorer developmental outcomes than children whose parents remained faithful. The study was discredited by the American Sociological Association who claimed “there is no evidence that children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being.”

His own department at UT issued a statement at the time that said, “Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the university.”

Regnerus didn’t study children born into an LGBT family or adopted by same-sex parents. His study was comparing children from families that remained intact to those from families that had dissolved and a same-sex relationship may have occurred.

In his testimony, Regnerus was asked if he was aware of any data showing marriage equality reduces the number of children “raised in heterosexual biological parent families.”

“I’m unaware of that,” Regnerus testified.

The plaintiffs’ attorney then asked whether excluding same-sex couples from marrying would promote what Regnerus believes is the ideal environment for children.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

Regnerus also testified he’s not a fan of invitro fertilization because it reduces kinship. Nor does he really care for adoption because biological parents are more willing to sacrifice for their children.

Another witness for the state was a Brigham Young University economist Joseph Price who responded to a question about why economic benefits should be denied to same-sex couples.

“Women have a domesticating effect on men,” Price said.

The state’s final anti-gay witness was a Canadian economist who was asked if he believed gay people were going to hell.

“Without repentance, yes,” he said.

In other words, count on Michigan to become one of the next marriage equality states.

—  David Taffet

Oregon could be one of the next marriage equality states

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

Last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced the state would not defend its marriage ban in court.

Oregon is the only state on the West Coast without marriage equality, although the state recognizes marriages performed elsewhere and has a domestic partnership law. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, domestic partnerships are not recognized by the federal government as equivalent to marriage, and no federal benefits are derived.

Oregon United for Marriage collected petitions to get a measure on the ballot to repeal a 2004 constitutional amendment that voters passed. Opponents are working to put an Arizona-style gay discrimination law on the November ballot.

Because of the change in political climate and after seven judges have declared other constitutional amendments illegal in the past two months, Oregon United for Marriage thinks spending money on a repeal election is a waste of money.

The Oregonian thinks differently. In an editorial, the newspaper argues that Oregon voters have the right to undo a wrong it did in 2004 and would like to see marriage equality voted into law.

Oregon United for Marriage’s campaign manager Mike Marshall told the Oregonian he doesn’t like the idea of other people voting on his marriage.

—  David Taffet

Wendy Davis wins Texas Democratic gubernatorial bid, will face Greg Abbott

wendy-davis-hrc-blog450As expected, Fort Worth state Sen. Wendy Davis secured the Democratic nomination for Texas governor Tuesday night.

“I am proud to be your candidate for governor,” Davis told a crowd of supporters at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth. “And I’m ready to fight for you and all hardworking Texans. Now is the time to fight for our future.  This is not the time to stand still.”

Davis, who’s endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Texas, is a longtime LGBT ally, having supported Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance during her time on the Fort Worth City Council to sponsoring LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation and co-authoring an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination legislation.

She came out for marriage equality weeks before a federal judge found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. After the ruling last week, she released a statement commending the judge, saying “I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry.”

Davis won the nomination with 77 percent of the vote. She’ll go on to face Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in November. Abbott won the Republican nomination with 92 percent of the vote.

And Tuesday night, while Davis didn’t specifically mention LGBT Texans, she promised to fight for the freedoms for every Texan.

“I will be a governor who fights for all freedoms — not certain freedoms for certain people,” Davis said. “Greg Abbott wants to dictate for all women, including victims of rape or incest, what decisions they should make. I will be a governor who fights for Texas’ future.  Greg Abbott? He’s just a defender of the status quo.”

—  Anna Waugh

Outside lawyer to appeal Kentucky gay-marriage ruling after attorney general refuses

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Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway began choking up at the end of his statement in which he said he would not defend discrimination.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced Tuesday morning the state will hire outside counsel to appeal a judicial ruling that the state must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the state, The Courier Journal reported.

The announcement followed state Attorney General Jack Conway’s emotional announcement that he would not appeal U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II’s ruling and would not pursue any more stays.

“Judge Heyburn got it right,” he said at his Frankfort office.

By appealing, he said, he would be defending discrimination “and that I will not do.”

Conway said he had prayed on the decision and felt he is doing what is right. He said that he was sworn to defend both the constitutions of Kentucky and the United States.

“It’s about placing people over politics,” he said.

He began choking up at the end of the statement before leaving without taking questions.

Beshear’s office emailed a statement soon after the announcement saying that an outside counsel would be hired to appeal the decision and ask for a stay pending appeal.

Heyburn put enforcement of his order on hold for 20 days to allow state officials time to figure out how to implement the ruling. Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear had asked Heyburn for a 90-day reprieve.

Heyburn’s stay, announced Feb. 28, came about one hour after a hearing at which Assistant Attorney General Clay Barkley argued that the state needs to meet with local and state agencies to see what laws, rules and policies will be affected and to ensure that all 120 counties respond consistently.

Heyburn’s order to the state requiring the recognition of same-sex marriages performed out-of-state came after a Feb. 12 ruling that Kentucky laws and its constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same-sex marriages violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

He made that order final Feb. 27, meaning it was in effect briefly before the Feb. 28 stay.

—  Steve Ramos

‘That was the day I withdrew’

Jim-Lovell

With the federal judge striking down the Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions, hopefully this is the beginning of the end of a sorry, hateful chapter in Texas history.

Who did this amendment help? You? Please tell me how. Didn’t your life continue as always? OK, so it helped politicians get money and votes, which was really the purpose of it and which adds to the sleaziness of it. They played the people of Texas like a violin and got more power as a result.

Who did this amendment hurt? Well, ME, for starters, and the hurt went way beyond the rights and protections denied to Bill and me. The day I went to vote against this amendment, my life changed profoundly.

I went to vote early, as I usually do. Normally, for a vote on constitution propositions, I am one of maybe five or 10 people to vote on that particular day. Not this day.

People were lined up out the door and around the corner — to vote against me. To make sure that I could not even have a civil union.

Please try to imagine the feeling, seeing such a line to vote against you, and knowing that many of your “friends” are in that line, people who trust you to teach their children are, nevertheless, in that line to make sure that you cannot have what they take for granted.

Worse yet — the many friends who were silent. I don’t know how they voted, and therefore, I didn’t know who my friends were.

That was the day I withdrew. I started eating lunch alone. I didn’t stay around and chat after meetings. Conversations became superficial. Fortunately, I had the support at home from a loving life partner, and I had an abundance of love and support from the amazing people of my church, Northaven United Methodist in Dallas. They helped me to learn to forgive, to see the people in that line as victims manipulated by greedy power seekers, manipulating them by stirring up fear. But it has been a years-long, unfinished process.

I am doing fine, but I wonder about those who did not have the support I had, especially the young ones. How many of them decided to just end it all? If they were in the same dark place as me, undoubtedly it happened. And listening to the debate still going on, I’m sure it is still happening.

So, I celebrate this judge’s decision. I hope it speeds the day when we can throw this hateful amendment in the trash heap of history, right along with Jim Crow and the Salem witch hunts, etc. etc. etc. (That heap is pretty big, isn’t it?) I hope it speeds the day when we become a society who cares for and values one another rather than beating down and stigmatizing one another.

— Jim Lovell on Facebook

Jim Lovell retired from the Plano ISD, and lives in France with his husband, Bill Stoner. They will be in Dallas this weekend to attend the marriage ceremony of Jack Evans and George Harris.

Related stories:

Texas ban on same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional

By God, that’s where we’re going to get married

Marriage equality is fixin’ to come to Texas

It’s nice to hear someone say our marriage is valid

 

—  Steve Ramos