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

BREAKING NEWS: Louisiana state judge says marriage ban is unconstitutional

KLFY Channel 10 News in Lafayette is reporting that Louisiana State Judge Edward Rubin has ruled that the state’s law banning same-sex gavelmarriage is unconstitutional because it violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

That’s all I can find on the ruling right now, but Rubin’s ruling is in direct contrast to a ruling earlier this month by federal Judge Martin L. C. Feldman in Louisiana that the state’s gay marriage is not unconstitutional. Feldman’s ruling on Sept. 3 is the only ruling in favor of gay marriage bans.

 

—  Tammye Nash

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.

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 4.50.38 PM

—  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