UPDATE: More on same-sex couple married in Travis County

The two women who today became the first lesbian couple to receive a marriage license and be legally married in Texas exchanged their weddingGoodfriend and Bruant vows this morning in front of the same building where they were denied a marriage license eight years ago, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Sarah Goodfriend is a unpaid policy advisor to Austin state Rep. Celia Israel. She advises primarily on environmental and energy issues. Suzanne Bryant is an attorney in private practice in Austin. The two have been a couple for 31 years, and they exchanged their wedding vows in front of the Travis County Clerk’s office this morning with Rabbi Kerry Baker officiating.

To read read the couple’s petition to the court and the judge’s resulting order, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

Same-sex couples ask Granade to make probate judge issue licenses; Lambda Legal urges probate judges to ignore Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore


So, I have already told you about Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s temper tantrum over marriage equality and how he is just gonna hold his breath til he turns blue or the big bad gay people go away.

But the same-sex couples in Alabama who want state officials to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision not to extend a stay on a lower court ruling overturning the state’s marriage equality ban aren’t going away and giving up.

In fact, the National Center for Lesbian Rights reported today (Tuesday, Feb. 10), that four same-sex couples in Mobile asked District Judge Ginny Granade — the judge who issued TWO rulings last month overturning the Alabama marriage ban — to instruct Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to issue them marriage licenses.

Davis has stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples. Mobile County is one of 47 of the state’s 67 counties where the probate judges are following Moore’s orders and not issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

In their request to Judge Granade, the couples explained that each of them appeared at the Davis’s Mobile offices and were denied marriage licenses, and they say they are suffering serious harm each day that they continue to be excluded from marriage.

The Alabama couples — represented by NCLR, Birmingham attorney Heather Fann and the ACLU of Alabama —  include James Strawser and John Humphrey, who previously obtained a ruling from Judge Granade declaring that Alabama’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional.

The other three couples are Meredith Miller and Anna Lisa Carmichael, Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger, and Kristy Simmons and Marshay Safford.

NCLR Legal Director Shannon P. Minter said, “We are hopeful that a ruling on this motion will provide clarity regarding the obligations of probate judges across the state and correct the misunderstanding generated by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has erroneously instructed those judges not to comply with the requirements of the federal Constitution. We are confident that all Alabamians, regardless of where in the state they live, will soon enjoy the freedom to marry.”

Moore claims he is the one with the authority to tell probate judges who they can and can’t give marriage licenses to, and since he was not named as a defendant in either of the two cases Granade ruled in, then the ruling doesn’t apply to him. And he has issued an administrative order telling probate judges not to issues the licenses.

Lambda Legal urges probate judges to ignore Moore

Obviously not everyone agrees with Moore that he is The Man in Charge. In fact, Lambda Legal today sent a letter to the president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association and the probate judges in those 47 counties not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, urging them to pay no attention to that bigot behind the curtain.

The letter included a lot of legal talk citing Alabama case law backing up Lambda Legal’s point that “Chief Justice Moore does not have the authority to issue the administrative order” telling the probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Greg Nivens, counsel a Lambda Legal, said, “The law is clear — all Chief Justice Moore has done is create chaos and his order is clearly out of bounds.”

Read the full letter here.


—  Tammye Nash

Alabama Supreme Court chief justice pledges to refuse the tyranny of SCOTUS

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore this week issued a declaration pledging to ignore any federal court rulings on marriage equality — including rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court — that he doesn’t like. The statement came after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade (appointed by President George W. Bush, by the way), ruled in favor of marriage equality in two separate cases since last Friday, Jan. 23.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy MooreMoore calls such rulings “tyranny.”

TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com reports that in a letter addressed to Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bently, Moore wrote: “As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. If we are to preserve that ‘reverent morality which is our source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement,’ then we must act to oppose such tyranny!”

Moore claimed that the institution of marriage is being destroyed by “federal courts using specious pretexts based on the Equal Protection, Due Process and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution.” He also advised the governor that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples “would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama,” and claimed that Alabama is not bound by decisions of federal district or appellate courts.

Sounds like Chief Justice Moore attended the Mike Huckabee School of Law. But the Alabama Republican might want to take a refresher course on exactly how this whole state/federal/constitution/supreme court thing actually works, focusing especially on the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

But then, I guess we really can’t expect all that much from Republican Chief Justice Moore. After all, he is the same man who was removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary from his seat as Alabama’s chief justice in 2003 when he refused to remove a stone monument of the 10 Commandments from the Alabama judicial building. The fine people of the state re-elected him chief justice in 2012, bless their hearts.

Last year, Moore went on a cross-country speaking tour to warn folks that same-sex marriage a devilish plot to destroy to America. Also last year, Moore went to Mississippi to speak to the anti-choice group Pastors For Life where he attacked marriage equality and declared that the First Amendment applies only to Christians. And in 2012, Moore told everybody who would listen during his campaign for chief justice that same-sex marriage is not about equality for lesbians and gays but an evil plan to destroy the God-ordained institution of marriage.

—  Tammye Nash

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

—  Tammye Nash

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

BREAKING: 10th Circuit says OK marriage ban is unconstitutional

Bs1h9tfCAAAgOOnA U.S. appeals court ruled today that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The 2-1 vote by the U.S. Tenth Circuit of Appeals affirmed U.S. Judge Terence Kern’s earlier decision in Bishop v. Smith.

The same three-judge panel also ruled earlier Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The court stayed its ruling however, pending an appeal by the state of Oklahoma.

The case is the oldest challenge to a same-sex marriage ban in the country.

Since the Supreme Court’s major gay rights decisions last year, 17 federal courts have ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. More than 70 cases are pending in federal court including one in Texas, DeLeon v. Perry according to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign.


—  James Russell

Holder: DOJ will file brief in favor of same-sex marriage

eric holder.small

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas on Monday that the Justice Department will be filing a brief in the Utah same-sex marriage case urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court ruling and block states from banning same-sex marriage.

District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled last December that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling last month, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that instead of asking the full 10th Circuit Court to review the case, he would appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holder said that filing the brief would be “consistent with the actions we have taken over the past couple of years,” in which the Justice Department has refused to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Holder said that decision was “vindicated by the Supreme Court,” which ruled last year in Windsor vs. United States that the sections of DOMA allowing the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions that recognize such marriages are unconstitutional.

Holder told Thomas that he believes banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that such bans cannot survive the standard of heightened scrutiny. He called the fight for LGBT rights “a defining civil rights challenge of our time,” and that LGBT people are waiting for an “unequivocal declaration that separate is inherently unequal.”


—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Appeals court grants stay for Sandler and Quasney

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order today compelling the state of Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, even though the federal district judge that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban last week stayed his ruling, leaving the ban in effect while the case makes its way through the appeals process. The 7th Circuit Court issued its ruling after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion asking that the stay be lifted for Sandler and Quasney because Quasney is battling stage 4 ovarian cancer and “the family needs the dignity, comfort and protections of marriage as they fight to be together,” according to a statement just released by Lambda Legal.

The 7th Circuit Court also set an expedited briefing schedule in the base, Baskin v. Bogan, with all briefs in the case due by Aug. 5. Arguments in the case could come as early as the end of the summer, Lambda Legal officials said.

Paul D. Castillo, staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said: “It is time for the state of Indiana to leave Niki and Amy in peace and not subject them and their marriage to any more stress and uncertainty as this case proceeds. We are thrilled that the court ruled in favor of this family … . We will continue to fight until no family in Indiana needs to worry about their marriage being stripped away from them and all Hoosiers have the freedom to marry.”

The couple filed suit challenging Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban in March in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, and Lambda Legal later filed a motion seeking immediate relief for the two women and their two children, ages 3 and 1.

Quasney was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer nearly five years ago in 2009, when she had more than 100 tumors surgically removed. Since then she has gone through years of chemotherapy to battle the disease. Quasney and Baskin have a civil union in Illinois and were married in Massachusetts last year. But they need to have their marriage recognized in Indiana, where they live, to “receive the full protections that every other married family in Indiana receives,” according to Lambda Legal representatives.

Click here to read the 7th Circuit Court’s order lifting the stay for Baskin and Quasney. Click here to see Lambda Legal’s request for an emergency order. Click here to sign the petition urging the Indiana attorney general to abandon the appeals, and click here to read more about the families and the entire case.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Tenth Circuit upholds marriage equality in Utah

10th CircuitThe Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court ruling in the Utah marriage discrimination case — Kitchen v. Herbert — that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples due process and equal protection.

This is the first ruling by an appellate court since the landmark U.S. v. Windsor case was decided last June, striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and instructing the federal government to recognize marriages of same-sex couples.

“Today’s decision by the Tenth Circuit affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people,” said Peggy Tomsic, one of the attorneys in the case. “As the Court recognized, these families are part of Utah’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state.  The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for our entire state and every state within the Tenth Circuit.”

The 10th Circuit also heard the Oklahoma marriage discrimination case the same day, and is expected to hand down its ruling in the case any time now.

—  David Taffet

Gay matchmaking service He’s For Me opens Dallas office


From left, He’s For Me Dallas manager Dana Foley-Taylor, owner Tammy Shaklee and North Texas GLBT Chamber’s Tony Vedda and Ron Watterson help cut the ribbon at the office’s opening Friday. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas gays now have no excuse to be single — at least not for long.

Gay matchmaking service He’s for Me opened its Dallas office on Friday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and introduce the full-time staff to the community. Staff members were joined by members of the GLBT North Texas Chamber of Commerce, of which H4M is a member.

The company started in Austin in the fall of 2012. Within six months, matchmakers were setting up Dallas and Houston couples, owner Tammy Shaklee said.  The popularity made a full-time office in Big D necessary, and she plans to open a Houston location next.

Shaklee said it’s easy to meet people, but it’s hard to know if they’re single, looking for a serious relationship and if you’re compatible with them.

And she met her husband through a dating service in Austin seven years ago.

“I would have never met him without the matchmaking service,” she said.

She then tried to convince a gay friend to use a service to find love. Only he couldn’t find a service that paired gays.

“I started the research, and after three days of trying to find service for him, I found that none existed,” she said. “When I couldn’t find a service for him to hire to help him, I started the process to start it myself.”

H4M also serves gays in Seattle, after a Houston client relocated and wanted Shaklee’s company to help him there. The company now serves gays in Denver, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

While Shaklee, a straight ally, saw the need for gays to have a service, she said she’s researching expanding the company for lesbians with a She’s For Me component.

“I really do believe in my heart that it took a straight ally to give the community something that it hadn’t had the opportunity to have before,” she said.

H4M Dallas office is located at at 2911 Turtle Creek Blvd., 3rd Floor. For more info about HFM, go here.

—  Dallasvoice