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

horse

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

AttorneyGeneralAlanWilson

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

Texas won’t issue driver’s license to gay man because he’s married

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 1.11.38 PMAccording to a report in the Des Moines Register, an Iowa gay couple who moved to an Austin suburb can’t get Texas drivers license because of their marriage.

Michael Miller Gribble changed his name on all legal documents after he and his husband married. When they moved to Texas, he brought his marriage license and birth certificate to apply for his new driver’s license. He was turned away because Texas won’t recognize a marriage license from a same-sex couple as proof of a name change.

He was told he could either get a divorce or a legal name change. Opposite-sex couples do not need a court-order to change last names. A marriage license is proof of the change.

The newspaper reports that couples from Iowa have had similar problems in Nebraska, Florida and South Dakota. Iowa has been a marriage-equality state since 2009.

Gribble applied for a passport that will reflect his new name. He can use that as proof of who he is rather than a marriage license and birth certificate.

He pointed out the extra cost and inconvenience involved and pointed out the unfair financial penalties of being gay or lesbian that goes against the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

This isn’t the first time that the state of Texas has refused to issue a driver’s license because of a same-sex-marriage-related name change. It happened earlier this year to a lesbian who legally married her female partner in California and then moved with her wife to Texas. And in October, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced on Twitter that the state refused to give her 16-year-old daughter a driver’s license because the girl’s birth certificate listed two moms.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Defined benefit retirement plans must also recognize same-sex marriages

David-Henderson

David Mack Henderson

In the Dec. 5 issue of Dallas Voice, we reported on the discovery by Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson that the Internal Revenue Service requires that defined contribution retirement plans — such as 401(a), 401(k) and 125 cafeteria plans —  recognize same-sex spouses of plan members if the couple were married in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes such marriages — even if the couple lives in a state that bans marriage equality.

Henderson has since discovered that defined benefit plans must also recognize same-sex spouses:

“From Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law:
Q17. What are some examples of the consequences of these rules for qualified retirement plans?
A17. The following are some examples of the consequences of these rules:
Plan A, a qualified defined benefit plan, is maintained by Employer X, which operates only in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, Plan A must treat a participant who is married to a spouse of the same sex under the laws of a different jurisdiction as married for purposes of applying the qualification requirements that relate to spouses.”

A defined benefit pension plan is a type of pension plan in which an employer/sponsor promises a specified monthly benefit on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns. A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, does not promise a specific amount of benefits at retirement. In these plans, the employee or the employer (or both) contribute to the employee’s individual account under the plan, sometimes at a set rate.

You can also find information on the Equality Texas website.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: 11th Circuit refuses to extend stay on marriage equality in Florida

Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 3.02.46 PMEquality Florida has just announced that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay placed on a lower court’s ruling overturning the Sunshine State’s ban on marriage equality.

This clears the way for same-sex couples to begin applying for marriage licenses late on Jan. 5 when the current stay expires.

Nadine Smith, Equality Florida CEO, said, “We are thrilled … . Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it’s time to break out the wedding bells. Florida is ready for the freedom to marry.”

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued his ruling declaring Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Aug. 21 in two federal marriage cases that had been consolidated — Brenner v. Scott  and Grimsley and Albu v. Scott. The state, represented by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, had asked the 11th Circuit Court to extend the stay until the appeals process is complete. Today, the 11th Circuit said no to that request.

—  Tammye Nash

Montana becomes No. 35

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17

By the end of November, the orange and purple should be blue on this map.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for same-sex couples’ marriages in Montana.

Today’s (Wednesday, Nov. 19) ruling follows a favorable marriage ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in cases out of Idaho and Nevada. The circuit court holds jurisdiction over Montana, as well as Alaska and Arizona, which also have the freedom to marry.

Although Montana can appeal to the 9th Circuit, that court has refused to stay marriage rulings for other states. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t stayed rulings in circuits where it rejected appeals. So marriage in Montana is likely to begin over the next few days.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Montana’s same-sex couples and their loved ones want what all families want: joy, protections, security, and respect — and that’s what the freedom to marry is all about. This ruling, in keeping with nearly every other court that has ruled in more than a year, brings us to 35 states with the freedom to marry — but we are not done until we end marriage discrimination in all 50 states. It’s time for the Supreme Court to affirm the freedom to marry nationwide and bring our country to national resolution for all loving and committed couples in every state.”

More than 50 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

South Carolina marriage appeal turned down

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down a request to stay marriage equality in South Carolina.

Although the 4th Circuit has not issued any rulings directly regarding South Carolina’s marriage equality ban, the court has ruled that Virginia’s marriage equality ban is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review that ruling means that the 4th Circuit’s decision in the Virginia case extends to all the other others under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

North Carolina and West Virginia had already complied. South Carolina balked and has been using a variety of delaying tactics.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, South Carolina will become marriage equality state No. 34 on Thursday, Nov. 20.

 

—  David Taffet