Judge rules Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

EqualityA federal judge ruled Alabama’s sane-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

According to the Huffington Post, “U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, known as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.”

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

 

—  James Russell

BREAKING: No word from SCOTUS on cases appealed from 6th Circuit

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The U.S. Supreme Court today (Friday, Jan. 9) took no action on appeals of five marriage equality cases from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 6th Circuit court is the only federal appellate court since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling declaring parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional to rule against marriage equality and in favor of state bans on same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court last fall chose not to hear appeals in cases from other circuits, all of which had ruled in favor of equality. The court also chose not to extend the stay on a Florida judge’s ruling overturning the ban there, leading to the start of same-sex marriages there on Monday (Jan. 5).

Although today was the first day the court might have announced some action on the five 6th Circuit cases, it wasn’t the last. According to a report by Reuters, the justices often delay acting on cases the first time they are discussed in their private sessions. An announcement on whether the court will hear the cases could come as soon as next week.

—  Tammye Nash

Louisiana case wraps up, Mississippi being heard

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Louisiana plaintiffs Jon Robicheaux and Derek Pinton

The plaintiffs in the Louisiana case that was heard at 9 a.m. by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Mississippi case is currently being heard.

Erin Moore reports from New Orleans that the cases are running late.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Lines form to get into 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

The lines formed early to get into the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building to hear oral arguments on three same-sex marriage cases this morning. Erin Moore is outside the courthouse and took these pictures:

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Reporters asking questions as spectators line up to get a seat in the overflow rooms at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans (Erin Moore/Dallas Voice)

 

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Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (Erin Moore/Dallas Voice)

Omar Narvaez

Lambda Legal’s community educator Omar Narvaez waiting to get into the 5th Circuit courtroom. (Erin Moore/Dallas Voice)

 

—  David Taffet

Democrats introduce bill to officially repeal DOMA

marriageA bill that would officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced yesterday (Tuesday, Jan. 6), the first day of the Republican-controlled 114th Congress.

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, in the House and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, in the Senate. 77 additional House members and 41 other senators have signed on.

The Supreme Court struck down the portion of DOMA barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2013. Since that ruling, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states and Washington, D.C. But same-sex marriage is still banned in 14 states, including Texas, and they do not have to recognize marriages performed elsewhere. (The Texas marriage case will be heard before the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans on Friday.) The Respect for Marriage Act would fix that.

“The vast majority of Americans live in states where same-sex couples can marry and public support for marriage equality is growing stronger by the day. We must finish the job begun by the Supreme Court by passing the Respect for Marriage Act.  The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, but Congress still must repeal the law in its entirety,” Nadler said in a statement.

The legislation, he said, “provides a uniform rule for recognizing couples under federal law, ensuring that lawfully married couples will be recognized under federal law no matter where they live.”

According to a Department of Justice report, without legislation that repeals DOMA, married same-sex couples will continue to be denied critical federal benefits.

“Congress must repeal DOMA and ensure that married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, which is what this bill will do,” said Sen. Feinstein. “Only when this bill is passed will we be able to guarantee the federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage for all loving couples. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”

—  James Russell

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

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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

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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

BREAKING: Judge won’t lift stay in Texas gay marriage case

GayTexasFlagA federal judge has declined to allow Texas same-sex couples to marry before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the case.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in February. But he stayed the ruling anticipating an appeal by Texas officials. Then–Attorney General and now Governor-elect Greg Abbott, a Republican, filed an appeal.

The Fifth Circuit has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 9 for the Texas case as well as for Mississippi and Louisiana.

 

 

—  James Russell

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