Equality comes to the Equality State tomorrow

safe_imageEquality comes to Wyoming, whose nickname is The Equality State, on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights brought suit against Wyoming to come into line with the rest of the Tenth Circuit after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from Utah and Oklahoma, also in that circuit.

The state announced that it would not appeal, clearing the way for marriages to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Wyoming becomes marriage equality state No. 32 after AK, AZ, 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, plus DC.

—  David Taffet

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

Abbott wants to reduce out-of-wedlock births so he’s against same-sex marriage

Texas AG Greg AbbottAtty. Gen. Greg Abbott filed a new brief in the Texas marriage case that the Fifth Circuit decided to fast-track. His main argument is that the state doesn’t have to prove same-sex marriage will hurt opposite-sex marriage, just that opposite-sex marriage is better.

“Second, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society.”

So how’s that channeling going for you Greg?

Here are some stats from the Centers for Disease Control website for teen births, ages 15 to 19 in 2010, the latest year for which I found a state-by-state comparison.

The overall U.S. birth rate is 34.3 per 1,000 teens ages 15–19 in 2010, the latest year available on the Centers for Disease Control website.

But that number is not equally distributed across the country.

In Massachusetts, the rate is 17.1 per thousand and in Texas it’s 52.2 per thousand. That’s more than three times the teen pregnancy rate in traditional values Texas than in marriage-equality Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, the first marriage-equality state, legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.

In his fight against marriage equality, Abbott said the State is interested in “reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.” That hasn’t happened.

Let’s compare a few other states to Texas. In civil union state No. 1 that became marriage equality state No. 2, the Vermont teen birth rate is 17.9 per thousand.

Another early marriage equality adopter was Iowa. That’s state’s teen birth rate is 28.6 per thousand, still below the national average.

Comparing Texas to other large states, New York has a rate of 22.6 per thousand and California has a rate of 31.5 per thousand. Both now have marriage equality but didn’t in 2010, the year of these stats.

Texas isn’t in last place, however. Once again, Texans can proudly say “Thank God for Mississippi,” with its 55.0 rate. Arkansas and New Mexico teens are both breeding at faster rates than Texas teens as well.

These are just teen birth rates and marriage equality may have absolutely nothing to do with it. So either Abbott’s argument collapses because marriage equality is irrelevant to unwed teen birth rates or marriage equality actually encourages teens not to get pregnant.

—  David Taffet

Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit

cleopatra-de-leon-and-nicole-dimetman

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

UPDATED: SCOTUS’ Anthony Kennedy stays same-sex marriages in ID, NV

1215 flashU.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has issued a stay on same-sex marriages in Idaho and Nevada pending any further order by Justice Kennedy or the entire court.

“Lawyers for same-sex couples were told to file a response by 5 p.m. Thursday to Idaho’s request,” according to SCOTUS blog. The full order can be found here.

An AP report confirmed BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner’s earlier inquiry that the stay would affect same-sex marriages in Nevada, which were also impacted by the Ninth Circuit court’s decision

Having allowed those other rulings to take effect without a full review by the Supreme Court, it would be surprising if the justices were to put the 9th circuit ruling on hold for any length of time.

The high court’s action Monday suggested that only an appellate ruling upholding a gay marriage ban would prompt the court to step in.

It’s just another twist from a court full of surprises this week.

Check out the Voice for ongoing news about this week’s rulings on same-sex marriages.

—  James Russell

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.

bryan-fischer

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

UPDATED: Human Rights Campaign praises outgoing AG Eric Holder

eric holder.smallFollowing reports that United States Attorney General Eric Holder will announce his resignation today, the Human Rights Campaign released a statement praising him while calling for President Obama to nominate an out LGBT cabinet member.

“Some Attorneys General wait for history, others make history happen. Attorney General Holder made history for the LGBT community,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC. “He was our Robert F. Kennedy, lightening the burden of every American who faces legal discrimination and social oppression. We owe him a profound debt of gratitude for his legacy of advocacy and service.”

“The President has expressed a commitment to appointing a cabinet that reflects the full diversity of the American people, and there are many richly-qualified candidates available to serve as the first openly-LGBT cabinet secretary. It would be a natural extension of this administration’s enduring commitment to equality to send a message of visibility and inclusion by nominating such a candidate to serve in this historic role,” Griffin added.

You can read the full statement here.

According to NPR, the nation’s first black attorney general is one of the longest-serving Obama appointees and “ranks as the fourth longest tenured AG in history.”

Holder is well-known for refusing to defend DOMA and suing Texas over its voter ID law.

He plans to serve until a successor is nominated and approved by the Senate.

Check out Instant Tea throughout the day as details come in.

—  James Russell

UPDATE: More on the latest marriage ruling out of Louisiana

Adam Polaski at FreedomToMarry.org has posted this blog about the latest court ruling out of Louisiana on same-sex marriage, this time striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage.Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 4.24.40 PM

Polaski explains: “The case, In Re Costanza and Brewer, was filed in 2013 on behalf of Angela Marie Costanza and Chastity Shanelle Brewer, who are raising their 10-year-old son in Lafayette. The case sought respect for Angela and Chastity’s marriage license; since Louisiana did not respect their marriage, one mother was not permitted to legally adopt her son.

“The ruling today grants the second-parent adoption and affirms that the Louisiana amendment violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.”

Polaski calls Louisiana federal Judge Martin Feldman’s Sept. 3 upholding the same-sex marriage ban an “out-of-step decision,” and notes that “40 separate rulings have been issued since June 2013 in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples [and m]ore than 80 cases have been filed in state and federal courts across the country.”

—  Tammye Nash