This week in marriage equality: Republicans are all over the place

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon supports marriage equality, Georgia’s Republican attorney general wants to avoid it while Indiana’s Attorney General wants it figured out already.

OREGON:

Oregon Republican Senate Candidate Monica Wehby released a TV ad declaring her support for marriage equality. She is the only Republican Senate candidate this cycle to declare her support for marriage equality. She is running against the pro-LGBT equality incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Should she be elected to the Senate, she would join four other Republicans senators in supporting marriage equality. The incumbent has consistently lead Wehby in the polls. Watch the video here.

GEORGIA:

Down south, Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olen has asked that Inniss v. Aderhold, which challenges Georgia’s ban on marriage equality, be dismissed. Lambda Legal, which brought the suit, responded in a brief: “Our democracy functions and prevails because we promise liberty and equality for all. Our judiciary exists to enforce that promise. Plaintiffs turn to this Court to vindicate their families’ rights to liberty and equality.” Read the whole response here.

INDIANA:

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s marriage equality ban, Baskin v. Bogan, also filed by Lambda Legal.“Only the highest court in the country can provide the secure relief that same-sex couples and their children need, and it’s extremely important that these families are able to count on the protections of marriage as soon as possible,” said Paul Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal.

—  James Russell

Congrats to Martina and Julia, to Neil Patrick and David — but especially to Vivian and Nonie

Martina proposes

Martina Navratilova, left, proposes to Julia Lemigova.

Twenty-five years after she won her fourth and final singles championship at the U.S. Open, tennis great Martina Navratilova dropped to one knee on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Arthur Ashe Stadium to propose to her girlfriend, Julia Lemigivo.

The proposal, which came during a break in play while Navratilova was providing color commentary on the U.S. Open men’s competition, was shown on the stadium’s Jumbotron, and fortunately for Navratilova, Lemigova said yes.

Navratilova, 57, and the 42-year-old Miss USSR have been a couple since 2006. Read more here.

In other celebrity wedding news, Neil Patrick Harris married his longtime partner, David Burtka. The couple married in Italy, with a featured performance from Elton John. Harris and Burtka have been engaged since 2011, and are fathers to twins.

For more info (like how Elton John played at the reception) and to see a gorgeous photo, go here.

But here is the REALLY big wedding news of the past few days: Vivian Boyack, 91, and Alice “Nonie” Dubes, 90, both of Iowa, also got married over the weekend after 72 years together. They exchanged vows on Saturday in a small ceremony in Davenport, Iowa, surrounded by family and friends.

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—  Tammye Nash

UMC Bishop Martin McLee, former St. Luke’s minister, dies

6a00e550255d3c88330191027bf5d2970c-320wiBishop Martin D. McLee, who presided over the United Methodist Church’s New York region and once lived in Dallas, died Saturday, Sept. 6. The LGBT ally was 58 years old.

According to the UMC News Service, the Brooklyn native was called to ministry while attending Dallas’ St. Luke “Community” Church. There, under the leadership of Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. he

 immediately immersed himself in the life of the church, including its many social justice ministries, Holmes recalled. Among other activities, McLee sang in the choir, volunteered with the church’s prison ministry, served in its AIDS ministry and registered voters.

Trained as a lawyer, he enrolled in SMU’s Perkins School of Theology where he received his Master’s of Divinity. He didn’t give up on social justice causes, including his outspoken stances on LGBT equality once he joined the church.

The UMC’s official policy believes being LGBT is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” forbidding clergy from performing LGBT weddings. Pastors violating the policy often go to trial.

McLee advocated against such trials. After a complaint was filed against the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, who is retired, for officiating at his gay son’s wedding, McLee called for “the cessation of church trials” related to same-sex marriage. “Church trials produce no winners … trials are not the way forward,” McLee said at the time.

The full story is here.

—  James Russell

Seventh Circuit strikes down Indiana and Wisconsin marriage bans

Judge Richard Posner

Judge Richard Posner

The losing streak ends at 1 loss.

A day after a Louisiana judge upheld a state marriage ban for the first time since the Windsor decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Wisconsin and Indiana, upholding lower-court decisions. Judge Richard Posner wrote the marriage bans are a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The three-judge panel’s decision was unanimous.

The judge involved in yesterday’s decision in Lousiana and the judge who wrote today’s decisions were both Reagan appointees.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, wrote, “Today’s sharp and scathing ruling demolishes the arguments and unsubstantiated claims made by opponents of the freedom to marry, repeated in the outlier decision out of Louisiana yesterday, and affirms what nearly 40 other federal and state courts have found: the denial of the freedom to marry inflicts real harms and is constitutionally indefensible.”

—  David Taffet

Marriage supporter Abercrombie loses Hawaii primary

Gov. Neil Abercrombie

Gov. Neil Abercrombie

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie lost the Democratic primary in a 2-to-1 landslide in his bid for re-election, and he says the loss was due to his support for marriage equality.

Despite that loss, Abercrombie said he wouldn’t do anything differently.

“There’s no way I could live with myself if I thought I was diminishing another human’s ability to reach their full capacity,” he said.

After his election, Abercrombie tried to pass marriage equality in the first regular session of the legislature. When the bill was held up in committee, the governor called a special session to consider the issue.

Marriage equality passed in November 2013 and became law in December. Abercrombie attended the first weddings performed in the state.

Most analysts attribute the loss to Hawaii allowing crossover voting. Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary voted for the governor’s opponent, who would be easier to beat in the general election in November.

The head of the state’s Republican Party dismissed that analysis, saying there aren’t enough Republicans in the state to make that kind of difference.

—  David Taffet

Rev. Bill McElvaney has died

McElvaney

McElvaney, seated, officiated the marriage of Jack Evans, 84, and George Harris, 80 in March.

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, an ardent LGBT ally who faced scrutiny for officiating same-sex marriages despite his denomination’s disapproval, has died.

In March McElvaney, the pastor emeritus at Northaven United Methodist Church, officiated the wedding of longtime congregants Jack Evans, 84, and George Harris, 80. The very public ceremony, which was covered by this publication and others, was not held at Northaven but instead the neighboring Midway Hills Christian Church. Later that month, he was suspended from the church.

At the time of his suspension, he told the Voice that given his age, he’d rather be on the right side of history. “I owe the Methodist church a lot, but what I do not owe the Methodist Church is my soul.”

He recently announced he would no longer undergo treatment for liver cancer after four years.

Follow the blog this week for more information.

—  James Russell

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean endorses marriage equality

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean became the first mayor in Tennessee to endorse marriage equality today, according to a statement from Mayors for Freedom to Marry.

tn_rainbow“Tennessee’s denial of the freedom to marry directly harms the state’s more than 10,000 same-sex couples and their loved ones, and by putting obstacles in the path of businesses and families, drags everyone down,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.

“I believe that all people should be treated fairly and equally and that their individual dignity should be respected,” said Dean. “Embracing and celebrating our growing diversity makes our city stronger. Nashville needs to continue in that direction, and it’s my hope that joining this effort will help us do that.”

“We welcome Mayor Dean as another voice in favor of moving Tennessee, the South, and all of America to the right side of history,” added Wolfson.

Dean joins over 500 mayors across the country who have endorsed marriage equality. Of the 500, only four are in Texas: Austin’s Lee Leffingwell, Houston’s Annise Parker, El Cenizo’s Raul Reyes and Shavano Park’s A. David Mame.

No mayor from Dallas-Fort Worth has yet to sign onto the pledge.

—  James Russell

Vikings settle with Kluwe, agree to donate to LGBT charities

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Chris Kluwe

The Minnesota Vikings professional football team have reached an agreement with former punter Chris Kluwe in which the team officials have agreed to donate an undisclosed sum of money to five LGBT rights-related charities over the next five years, according to Associated Press reports, including this one from West Hawaii Today. Two of those charities are The Matthew Shepard Foundation and You Can Play Project.

Kluwe said he gets no money in the settlement agreement.

Kluwe had threatened to sue the team, saying he was unfairly released by the team last year because of his outspoken support for marriage equality. He also claimed that special teams coordinator Michael Priefer made anti-gay comments and tried to agitate him with homophobic language. The Vikings last month issued a 29-page report summarizing their investigation into Kluwe’s claims, saying they found no merit in his claim that he was unfairly released from the team. The report did acknowledge that Priefer did make anti-gay comments. He was suspended for three games and ordered  to undergo sensitivity training.

Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, said that the amount of money the Vikings will be donating won’t be disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement. But, he said, it represents “a substantial commitment to LGBT causes.”

Kluwe said, “This will help a lot of people that really do need that help,” adding that he is convinced the Vikings and owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are committed to the cause, and committed to being leaders on this issue in the NFL.

The Vikings said in a statement that the deal resolves all issues related to Kluwe’s departure from the team and his accusations that a coach made anti-gay comments. Zygi Wilf said he wished Kluwe the best and that the team’s “focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff.”

—  Tammye Nash

Utah becomes first state to file for cert

Supreme-Court(5)

U.S. Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Utah became the first state to file a writ of certiorari, commonly referred to as cert, with the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its marriage ban.

In June, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional, the first such ruling by a federal appeals court.

The state had three choices. It could have accepted the ruling and begun issuing marriage licenses. It could have could have asked for a hearing en banc, meaning a new hearing would have been held at the appeals court level, but this time heard by the entire court, rather than a three-judge panel. Or, as it did, it could have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two other states that have received appeals court rulings— Oklahoma and Virginia — also may file writs of cert. Four additional states’ cases — Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — were heard by an appeals court this week and may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court once a ruling is handed down.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess and reconvenes the first Monday in October. That’s when they’ll begin to decide which cases to hear during the upcoming session. If a marriage case is heard, a decision isn’t expected until June 2015. Traditionally, the most controversial decisions are left until the last day of the session. The court may also decide not to take a case during the 2014-15 session to allow more lower courts deal with the issue before hearing a case the following session.

—  David Taffet

Eureka Springs celebrates Arkansas marriage equality with a wedding reception

Eureka SpringsMore than 40 restaurants and businesses in Eureka Springs, Ark. contributed to an event described by one local TV station as the first “mass gay wedding reception in the Bible Belt.”

After the Arkansas anti-marriage amendment was declared unconstitutional, about 500 same-sex couples married in the state before a judge placed a stay on the decision.

The reception was held in Eureka Springs to honor those couples that married.

According to another local TV station, the Eureka Springs City Council called on the Arkansas to offer marriage equality.

Michael Walsh put together the event he titled Married to Equality.

“In addition to being the first city in Arkansas where gay people could get married, we’re the first city in Arkansas to throw them a wedding reception,” Walsh told Arkansas Matters.

—  David Taffet