Colorado clerks begin issuing marriage licenses

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Couples can marry in Boulder … for now.

As a result of the Tenth Circuit’s ruling yesterday that struck down the Utah marriage ban, Boulder County has begun issuing marriage licenses. Lafayette and Longmont counties will begin on Friday, according to the Denver Post.

Colorado is in the same circuit as Utah, so the Boulder County clerk said the ruling applies to her state. The attorney general disagrees and said the licenses won’t be valid.

By the end of the Wednesday, two couples were married. Boulder’s county clerk said she will continue issuing licenses today.

On Wednesday, the Tenth Circuit issued a split ruling declaring Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional. The court put a stay on its ruling until it’s heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The stay only mentions Utah, not Colorado, and Boulder’s county clerk acted after advice from the county’s legal staff. The circuit also encompassed Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming.

The attorney general’s actions indicate that Colorado will not accept the decision of the court in its marriage cases, as the Oregon attorney general did several weeks ago, and will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

—  David Taffet

Breaking: Indiana judge strikes down marriage ban

The wedding march continues.

A spokeswoman for Lambda Legal has just announced that U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young has ruled Indiana’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Lambda Legal challenged the law on behalf of five couples seeking the freedom to marry in Indiana or recognition of a marriage from another state.

Rae Baskin, left, and Esther Fuller

Rae Baskin, left, and Esther Fuller

“It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love,” Young wrote in his ruling, after noting that every federal district court that has ruled regarding same-sex marriage has ruled against discriminatory bans.

Young continued, “In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage — not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Paul D. Castillo said his organization is thrilled with the ruling. “Indiana now joins the momentum for nationwide marriage equality and Hoosiers can now proclaim they are on the right side of history,” he said.

Amy Sandler, one of the plaintiffs, called Young’s ruling “an awesome day for Indiana. … We are especially happy for our children because they’ll be growing up in state that values all families equally.”

Lead plaintiff Rae Baskin said she and her partner have “waited for this moment since we decided to share our lives with each other.”

Read the decision here.

Read more about the families and the entire case here.

—  Tammye Nash

This Week in Marriage Equality

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Dozens of people showed up for National Organization for Marriage’s annual March for Marriage — heterosexual-only marriage, that is.

Among the high-profile participants was Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who apparently participated mostly to piss off the majority of his own city’s population as well as his congresswoman, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom who pleaded with him not to attend.

Presbyterians

The Presbyterian Church voted on Wednesday to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where it’s legal. That must now be passed by a majority of the 172 local U.S. presbyteries.

Michigan

In a brief filed in Michigan’s marriage-equality case, 14 Republicans, including former state legislators, said conservative “values are advanced by recognizing civil marriage rights for same-sex couples,” not harmed.

“Providing access to civil marriage for same-sex couples poses no credible threat to religious freedom or to the institution of religious marriage,” they wrote in their brief.

Arizona

What the hell is going on with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona. First, she vetoed anti-gay legislation and now she says it’s time for legal protection.

HRC reported that on Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer acknowledged that Arizona laws do not prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and suggested that it might be time to change that.

“I do not believe in discrimination,” Brewer said. “We are in the United States of America and we have great privilege that is afforded to everyone.

Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals announced Monday they will heard all five cases pending before the court on August 6.

The court will hear cases from all four states in the circuit: DeBoer v. Snyder from Michigan; Bourke v. Beshear in Kentucky; Tanco v. Haslam in Tennessee; and both Henry v. Himes and Obergefell v. Himes in Ohio.

Both sides in the Michigan and Ohio cases will get 30 minutes to argue their case, while both sides in Kentucky and Tennessee will get 15 minutes.

—  David Taffet

Wisconsin marriage battle getting nasty

J.B. Van Hollen

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen

Marriages continue in Wisconsin despite Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s best attempts to stop them.

“Constitutions don’t defend themselves,” Van Hollen said. “They’re not worth the paper they’re written on if someone does not defend what’s in there.”

Last Friday, a U.S. District Court judge threw out the state’s marriage ban. More than half the state’s county clerks began issuing marriage licenses.

Van Hollen has been trying to get a stay of the court order but had been unsuccessful so far. So now he’s threatening the county clerks, telling them they could be charged.

Under state law, a county clerk could be jailed for nine months and receive a $10,000 fine for issuing licenses that are not allowed.

He’s also told newly married couples their marriages are invalid and not recognized by the state.

The issue is that when the district court judge issued her ruling, she did not issue an order to county clerks to begin issuing licenses.

Meanwhile, more couples are getting married in Wisconsin and more clerks are issuing licenses. Currently, marriage licenses are being issued by 63 or the 72 county clerks.

 

—  David Taffet

Wisconsin couples continue to marry after judge denies stay

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb

Same-sex couples continue to marry in Wisconsin after a judge refused to stay her decision declaring the state’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

Clerks in 41 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have begun issuing marriage licenses. Many have waived the state’s five-day waiting period to marry.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed an appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and the district court that issued the ruling to put a stay on its decision.

“A stay is necessary in this case to avoid confusion and to maintain the status quo,” he argued.

He didn’t say what was confusing about same-sex couples getting married in his state as they can in 19 other states.

Judge Barbara Crabb, who issued the ruling on Friday, refused to stay her decision today. Marriages will continue in Wisconsin at least until the attorney general asks the Seventh Circuit to stay the decision through its appeal process.

Despite Crabb’s announcement today that she would not stay her decision, Hollen said marriages licenses should not be issued because Crabb did not enjoin enforcement of the marriage law. Crabb said how clerks interpret marriage law is outside the realm of the lawsuit in her court and she would not issue instructions to them.

—  David Taffet

This week in marriage equality

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Pam Bondi, Florida’s oft-divorced attorney general

Marriage equality went statewide in Illinois this week. One Texas case advanced, and Colorado is having a wedding cake problem.

And Florida’s thrice-divorced attorney general, who travels abroad with a man she’s not married to, thinks same-sex marriage would harm The Sunshine State.

Illinois

Sunday marked the first day of statewide marriage equality in Illinois.

The Legislature passed a marriage equality law last fall that set June 1 as the start date. A Chicago couple sued for immediate implementation of the law because one partner had a terminal illness. A U.S. district court declared Illinois’ ban unconstitutional so Cook County, which includes Chicago, began issuing licenses in February. Since then, 16 Illinois counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of this week, couples can marry anywhere in the state.

Texas

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set July 9 as the day it will hear an appeal in DeLeon v. Perry, a Texas marriage equality case. One of the couples, Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes are from Plano.

In February, a federal judge in San Antonio who heard the case declared the Texas marriage ban unconstitutional.

This will be the first Texas case to reach the 5th Circuit. The Texas divorce case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. No ruling has been issued in that case that was heard in November.

Florida

Unlike attorneys general in Oregon and Pennsylvania, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending that state’s marriage ban.

She said recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples would impose “significant public harm” by interfering with Florida’s current marriage laws.

Bondi, who has been divorced three times, was in Cayman over Memorial Day weekend, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The paper reported she was supposed to marry husband No. 4, but she returned to the U.S. unmarried and said the wedding was postponed a few weeks.

In her brief in the marriage equality suit, Bondi claims “the state’s assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren’t significant enough to warrant relief.”

Then why is it important for her to get married — for a fourth time? And why is it OK for her to travel abroad with a man she’s not married to but gays marrying once is bad for Florida?

Colorado

Those poor wedding photographers and cake bakers.

The latest complaint is against a Colorado cake baker who refused to bake a cake for a civil union.

On Friday, the Civil Rights Commission in Colorado ruled that religious objections do not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The cake shop owner, Jack Phillips, said that the decision violates his First Amendment rights to “free speech and exercise of religion.”

The ruling doesn’t interfere with his religious beliefs and only affects his business practices. A store must serve anyone who comes in.

“I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

He said he’s been so overwhelmed by supporters buying cookies and brownies, he doesn’t make cakes anymore.

Yes, we know what goes into brownies in Colorado. I’m sure his business is booming.

—  David Taffet

One state left without marriage ban lawsuit after South Dakota challenge

Mount RushmoreSouth Dakota was one of only two states with marriage bans that had not been sued. That changed last week when six couples filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court on Thursday, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

The suit challenges the state’s 1996 marriage law and 2006 constitutional amendment banning marriage between same-sex couples as well as the state’s right not to recognize out-of-state marriages. Five of the six couples were married in marriage-equality states. The sixth couple would like to marry in South Dakota.

On Wednesday, a suit challenged Montana’s marriage laws. North Dakota is now the only remaining state whose marriage ban is not facing judicial review. A suit in that state may be filed as early as this week.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, marriage equality has won in every suit that has come before a court.

—  David Taffet

Gallup poll: Same-sex marriage support at new high

10402506_501490293284126_5257312347839643206_nA majority of Americans across the nation continue to support same-sex marriage, but sharp regional differences remain, according to a poll released Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The current Gallup poll,  shows that 55 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, a percentage that has continued to rise since 2011, when support passed the majority point. In 1996, when Gallup first asked about the issue, just 27 percent of Americans surveyed said they believed that gay marriage should be legal.

The poll comes as federal courts this week in Oregon and Pennsylvania struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, meaning that 19 states and the District of Columbia now give gays the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to matrimonial issues. The issue is pending in courts in almost every state and has been argued in two federal appeals districts involving cases from Utah and Virginia.

Most people expect the final decision will be made by the U.S. Supreme Court, which often waits for a variety of rulings from around the country before taking on an issue. While the court tries to insulate itself from polls, justices are aware of changing social mores and many think that it becomes a factor when deciding to tackle an issue. For example, the court acted when popular sentiment changed on race relations and abortion, among other issues.

According to the poll, 42 percent of those surveyed this year said gay marriage should not be valid, a number that has been falling from its high in 2011, when 47 percent opposed same-sex marriage.

The current poll is based on telephone interviews conducted May 8 to May 11 with a random sample of 1,028 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

All age groups have shown an increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, but the greatest gains have been among the younger group. In 1996, 41 percent of those aged 18 to 29 years said that gay marriage should be legal. But that figure jumped to 78 percent this year.

By comparison, those 50 years and older remained below the majority level, even though their support increased.

Those 50 to 64 years old jumped from 15 percent saying they support gay marriage to 48 percent. Those older than 65 increased from 14 percent to 42 percent.

Regional differences remain a major consideration with the South, often referred to as the Bible Belt, as the only area below majority acceptance of same-sex marriage. According to the poll, 48 percent of those surveyed in the South accept gay marriage.

In the East, 67 percent voiced support; the West stood at 59 percent in support and the Midwest at 53 percent.

Southern states have a variety of constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, from Louisiana in 2004 through North Carolina in 2012. Bans in Arkansas and Kentucky have been challenged in court. One of the key cases on state bans is in Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Virginia was also the state where the Supreme Court in 1967 struck down the ban on people of different races marrying each other. That case, Loving vs. Virginia, has frequently been cited in the current federal rulings supporting gay marriage.

—  Steve Ramos

Same-sex marriage battle spreads to Montana

MontanaFlagFringeMontana on Wednesday joined 28 other states with legal battles over gay marriage, while same-sex couples in Pennsylvania spent their first full day applying for marriage licenses knowing the governor wouldn’t stand in their way.

The Associated Press reported that a federal lawsuit filed by four gay couples in Montana leaves just two states — North Dakota and South Dakota — with gay marriage bans and no legal challenges aiming to overturn them. But that’s likely to change as same-sex marriage advocates there gear up for a legal fight.

State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Gay and lesbian couples can wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania becoming the latest to join the list this week when federal judges struck down their bans and officials decided not to appeal.

The Montana couples say their state’s constitutional ban denies gay couples the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans and robs them of the legal protections and benefits that come with marriage. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement supporting their cause, while the state’s Republican attorney general said he would vigorously defend the ban.

Meanwhile, a lesbian couple from Rapid City, South Dakota, said they also plan to challenge their state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the coming days, along with a provision in federal law that lets states avoid recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. Their attorney said he’s contemplating filing a lawsuit in North Dakota, too.

Here’s a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country:

Arkansas

A state judge in Arkansas’ largest county earlier this month struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, saying the state has “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying. The state Supreme Court brought the marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal.

Idaho

State officials announced this week they will appeal last week’s decision from a federal judge overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The appeal goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Indiana

State attorneys have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to review a federal judge’s recent order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple in which one woman is terminally ill. That ruling applies just to one couple — not to others who were legally wed elsewhere and are seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages.

Kentucky

After a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, attorney general Jack Conway said he would not defend the state’s law. But, the state has hired outside attorneys to handle the case and is appealing to 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which has not yet scheduled a hearing.

Michigan

The 6th Circuit is reviewing Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Arguments have not been scheduled.

Nevada

Eight gay couples are challenging Nevada’s voter-approved 2002 ban that was upheld by a federal judge in 2012. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco hasn’t scheduled arguments yet. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the ban.

Ohio

The 6th Circuit appeals court is reviewing two gay marriage cases from Ohio. The first involves recognizing gay marriages on death certificates, and the second involves an order for Ohio to recognize all out-of-state marriages. Arguments have not been scheduled in either case.

Tennessee

A federal judge ordered the state to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. Tennessee officials are appealing the preliminary injunction to the 6th Circuit.

Texas

A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.

Utah and Oklahoma

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is reviewing same-sex marriage bans that were overturned by federal court judges in these two states. The appeals court heard arguments on both cases in April, and a ruling is expected soon. Utah and Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the bans in 2004.

Virginia

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments this month about Virginia’s overturned ban and is expected to rule soon. Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, is one of seven in the country who has refused to defend a state gay marriage ban. A county clerk who was sued in Virginia is defending the ban.

Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

—  Steve Ramos

UPDATE: Judge rules Pennsylvania ban unconstitutional

Oregon marriage

Oregon couples began marrying immediately after yesterday’s court ruling. (Picture courtesy Oregon United for Marriage)

UPDATE: A Pennsylvania judge ruled the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. No word yet on when marriage begins or if the ruling will be stayed until it can be appealed. The attorney general said she would not defend the ban. The governor has not said if he would appeal.

“We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Judge John E. Jones III said in his ruling. Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush and was recommended to Bush by then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

ORIGINAL POST: This week is heating up as an active marriage-equality week.

Monday’s decision in Oregon which legalized same-sex marriage was expected. Also expected was an Arkansas state Supreme Court stay that stopped marriage equality in that state after about 500 couples married.

A ruling is expected at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. Central Time) Tuesday in a marriage case in Pennsylvania. Should the judge strike down the state’s marriage law, as every judge who has heard a marriage case since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA last June, marriage could begin in Pennsylvania this week. Rallies are planned across the state this afternoon.

In Utah, Judge Dale Kimball ruled Monday the state must recognize the marriages of the 1,300 couples who married during a two-week period when it was legal in December. He said it was unfair to put those couples into limbo, affecting everything from adoption to taxes to benefits. The decision doesn’t take effect for 21 days to give the state time to appeal.

—  David Taffet