BREAKING NEWS: Marriage equality comes to Kansas

Well, if Fred Phelps weren’t already a-spin in his grave, today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree  in favor of marriage equality in Kansas must have turned ol’ Fred into a veritableScreen shot 2014-11-04 at 3.25.38 PM whirling dervish.

According to a press release from Freedom to Marry, “today’s win in Kansas is in line with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in Oklahoma and Utah, which took effect on October 6.  Kansas is one of the six states in the 10th Circuit, and presently the only one not yet issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, said, “Yet another judge —  this time in Kansas — has found marriage discrimination to be unconstitutional, joining the nearly unanimous, bipartisan wave of pro-freedom to marry rulings in recent months. Attempts to delay the freedom to marry across the country are not only a waste of time and resources, but also prolong the harms and indignity that same-sex couples and their families continue to endure because of marriage discrimination. It is time for the remaining courts to finish the job and ensure the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in America.”

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage equality updates from around most of the country … but not Texas

Marriage_Equality_MapSouth Carolina

After the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles refused to allow Julie McEldowney to use her married name on her driver’s license, she filed suit against the state. She had already changed her name legally with the Social Security Administration.

Nebraska

Those wacky Catholics who are following the Pope and not a bunch of out-of-touch cardinals and bishops.

Omaha’s Creighton University, a Jesuit school, will offer benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. The move comes after the local Catholic archbishop voiced objections to the decision. The archbishop objected but school president the Rev. Timothy Lannon said that Creighton must also meet the needs of its employees and remain competitive with other universities.

Arizona

Since marriage equality came to Arizona last week, county clerks in all 15 counties have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. An estimated 300 licenses have been issued, meaning that roughly $20,000 has been brought to the state’s economy.

Montana

The Great Falls Tribune in Montana has published an editorial in favor of marriage equality.

“It’s time for the state of Montana to quit wasting taxpayers’ money and to accept gay marriage in Montana, even if churches can go their own way on this matter,” the editorial board wrote. “Some people still want to make political points with this issue, but we say, it’s too late for that. It’s all over.”

v.vember 20.

Kansas

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree has scheduled a hearing in the case challenging Kansas’ marriage ban for this Friday, Oct. 31 at 2:30 p.m.

Wyoming

Now that Wyoming is a marriage equality state, Equality Wyoming is working on adding sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination law. While it’s legal to get married in the state, a marriage license can be followed by a pink slip.

Missouri

While Missouri is still not a marriage equality state, it does recognize out-of-state marriages. So the Missouri State Employee’s Retirement System decided to add equal benefits for same-sex spouses.

That contrasts to Dallas where the city’s Employee Retirement Fund and Police and Fire Retirement boards have put roadblocks in the way of treating its LGBT employees equally despite a Dallas City Council mandate. The head of the ERF even had the gall to claim the board was doing everything it could to change the regulations after voting against a policy change herself.

—  David Taffet

New poll reveals Texans’ attitudes changing on same-sex marriage

UT-TT-Polls-102214.010_1 A new poll from the UT-Austin and Texas Tribune reveals Texans’ attitudes are shifting on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

According to the Tribune, when asked if they support same-sex marriage, 47 percent of respondents said no, 42 percent said yes and 11 percent were undecided. When asked about civil unions, 39 percent say they would allow marriage, 28 percent would allow civil unions, 25 percent oppose both and 9 percent are undecided.

62 percent of Democrats would allow gay marriages, even with the alternative of civil unions available. Only 14 percent of Republicans would allow same-sex marriages over civil unions, but another 45 percent would allow civil unions. Voters who identify themselves as independents were closer to the Democrats on this question, with 53 percent approving of gay marriage and another 20 percent in favor of the civil unions option.

55 percent of frequent churchgoers say they oppose both marriage and civil unions for those couples. A majority of other churchgoers, including those who say they attend services once a week, would allow some form of unions.

 

The demographic breakdown reveals that “the culture war is a lot more complex than you think,” Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Tribune. “The way in which you execute it does matter. What you really find is that people are subtle. They appreciate conditions and context.”

The internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted  Oct. 10–19 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Among 866 likely voters, the margin of error is +/- 3.33 percent. In the split sample on marriage, the margin of error is +/- 3.99 percentage points on the civil unions question and +/- 4.02 percentage points on the question about gay marriage alone. Numbers in the charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

The poll is part of a series of report asking likely voters about political issues which can be read here.

—  James Russell

Oral arguments set in Texas and Louisiana marriage cases

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Atty. Gen Greg Abbott pandering in front of the 11 Commandments monument at the Texas Capitol. Yes, I know there are 10, but look closely at the monument and you’ll find 11 listed, which makes this among my favorite fake religion monuments.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear the Texas and Louisiana marriage equality cases on Jan. 5.

In September, Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana became the first federal district court judge to uphold a state’s marriage ban since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Texas’s marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional by San Antonio District Judge Orlando Garcia in DeLeon v. Perry. His decision is stayed pending appeal.

In his appeal, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott resorted to using the “pedophile, incest and marrying farm animals” defense. Because underpopulation has been a worldwide plague, Abbott uses the responsible procreation defense that’s been thrown out by court after court.

What we found most interesting was his inclusion of a story from Dallas Voice written by Anna Waugh about a case from Fort Worth that is still pending before a trial court. Two Fort Worth men who claim they are heterosexual would like to get married in Texas.

From the brief (pages 23-24):

Not all persons who wish to marry a same-sex partner will have a homosexual orientation. The plaintiffs in McNosky v. Perry, No. 1:13-CV-00631-SS (W.D. Tex.), have publicly admitted that they have a heterosexual orientation and plan to marry each other as a statement of solidarity with same-sex couples. See Anna Waugh, Tarrant County Marriage

 

—  David Taffet

This Week in Marriage Equality

Westboro-horiz

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has a new ally in his fight to stop marriage equality in his state — Westboro Baptist Church

The Department of Justice is a week late, but not one penny short. The department announced it will recognize marriages performed in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, bringing the total to 32 states, which includes all marriage-equality states. DOJ announced recognition of seven states last week.

Marriage-equality attorney Ted Olsen said the U.S. Supreme Court is at a point of no return with marriage equality.

“I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed,” Olson said. “To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered.”

However, officials in some of the new marriage equality states are throwing temper tantrums. Here’s how they’re dealing with it:

Idaho

State Sen. Steve Vicker suggested Idaho stop issuing marriage licenses altogether.

“If we’re not allowed to determine the standards for a marriage license, then maybe we should just not issue them,” Vicker told WorldNetDaily. “Another potential avenue I’m exploring is just eliminating marriage licenses in Idaho.”

Great idea. It’s usually called cutting off your nose despite your face and that’ll last until the first straight couple that planned a wedding in Idaho finds out they can’t get married.

North Carolina

After the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts ordered state court administrators to marry same-sex couples, 28 Republican state senators wrote a letter asking the order be reversed. They claim the order violates religious freedom. Senate leader Phil Berger promised to introduce legislation protecting state officials who wish not to marry or perform weddings for same-sex couples. Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis hired National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman to lead a legal team appealing a ruling that overturned the state’s marriage ban earlier this month.

Kansas

Kansas continues to resist coming into compliance with its circuit court and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Anti-gay Gov. Sam Brownback, who is leading the state’s opposition to marriage equality and is up for reelection next week, has a powerful new ally — Westboro Baptist Church. The God Hates Fags Church filed a motion in to join Brownback in his suit to stop equality.

In her motion to the court, church leader Margie Phelps, who is an attorney, included the entire stories of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Oddly, the story of Sodom is about the sin of not welcoming the stranger. It isn’t clear from her motion if she understood she was appealing to a U.S. court, not a religious court.

—  David Taffet

Federal judge upholds Puerto Rico’s gay marriage ban

131024100102-puerto-rican-bonds-620xaA federal judge upheld Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez based his decision on the dismissal of appeal in Baker v. Nelson, a 1971 case in which two men sought to marry in Minnesota. By dismissing the appeal, wrote Pérez-Giménez, ”the Supreme Court bound all lower courts to assume bans on same-sex marriage do not violate the Constitution. The high court could choose to overrule itself but has not.”

Evoking his inner Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), he wrote legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality and to polyamorous and incestuous marriages.

“Ultimately,” he wrote, “the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.”

Talk about activist judges.

—  James Russell

Equality comes to the Equality State tomorrow

safe_imageEquality comes to Wyoming, whose nickname is The Equality State, on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights brought suit against Wyoming to come into line with the rest of the Tenth Circuit after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from Utah and Oklahoma, also in that circuit.

The state announced that it would not appeal, clearing the way for marriages to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Wyoming becomes marriage equality state No. 32 after AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI, plus DC.

—  David Taffet

Wyoming federal judge to announce marriage equality decision by Monday

safe_imageMarriage equality may come to Wyoming as soon as Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl heard arguments today, Oct. 16, to Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Skavdahl said that he will issue his ruling by 5:00 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.

“We are grateful that the court has moved quickly in handling our case, which affects so many families across Wyoming who are seeking equal dignity and full legal recognition. We are confident that the judge will give this important case the consideration it deserves, and we look forward to the court’s decision,” said Wyoming Equality Executive Director Jeran Artery in a statement.

The case was brought by Wyoming Equality and four same-sex couples who requested an immediate order directing state officials to comply with two decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit establishing that a state’s refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two appeals from the Tenth Circuit striking down marriage equality bans, meaning all states within the Tenth Circuit, including Wyoming, must comply with those decisions.

“The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. The State of Wyoming is obligated to follow the law as interpreted by the Tenth Circuit,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney Chris Stoll. NCLR is one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs.

In 30 states, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry: AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI.

In an additional five states, including Wyoming, federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there: AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY.

In an additional 8 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts. In Texas and four other states, judges have struck down marriage bans — AR, FL, KY, MI, and TX — judges have struck down marriage bans. In three states — LA, OH and TN — judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

In Missouri, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected.

Courts have cases pending, but have yet to rule, in seven states: AL, GA, MO, MS, NB, ND and SD.

—  James Russell

Abbott wants to reduce out-of-wedlock births so he’s against same-sex marriage

Texas AG Greg AbbottAtty. Gen. Greg Abbott filed a new brief in the Texas marriage case that the Fifth Circuit decided to fast-track. His main argument is that the state doesn’t have to prove same-sex marriage will hurt opposite-sex marriage, just that opposite-sex marriage is better.

“Second, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society.”

So how’s that channeling going for you Greg?

Here are some stats from the Centers for Disease Control website for teen births, ages 15 to 19 in 2010, the latest year for which I found a state-by-state comparison.

The overall U.S. birth rate is 34.3 per 1,000 teens ages 15–19 in 2010, the latest year available on the Centers for Disease Control website.

But that number is not equally distributed across the country.

In Massachusetts, the rate is 17.1 per thousand and in Texas it’s 52.2 per thousand. That’s more than three times the teen pregnancy rate in traditional values Texas than in marriage-equality Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, the first marriage-equality state, legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.

In his fight against marriage equality, Abbott said the State is interested in “reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.” That hasn’t happened.

Let’s compare a few other states to Texas. In civil union state No. 1 that became marriage equality state No. 2, the Vermont teen birth rate is 17.9 per thousand.

Another early marriage equality adopter was Iowa. That’s state’s teen birth rate is 28.6 per thousand, still below the national average.

Comparing Texas to other large states, New York has a rate of 22.6 per thousand and California has a rate of 31.5 per thousand. Both now have marriage equality but didn’t in 2010, the year of these stats.

Texas isn’t in last place, however. Once again, Texans can proudly say “Thank God for Mississippi,” with its 55.0 rate. Arkansas and New Mexico teens are both breeding at faster rates than Texas teens as well.

These are just teen birth rates and marriage equality may have absolutely nothing to do with it. So either Abbott’s argument collapses because marriage equality is irrelevant to unwed teen birth rates or marriage equality actually encourages teens not to get pregnant.

—  David Taffet

Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit

cleopatra-de-leon-and-nicole-dimetman

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to fast-track its review of two  lawsuits challenging bans on legally recognizing same-sex marriages in Texas and Louisiana, according to numerous reports, including this one at Bilerico.com.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin, one of two gay couples challenging the ban in Texas, asked Monday that the appellate court expedite the cases because Dimetman is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they want their marriage legally recognized before the child — due next March — is born. De Leon gave birth to their first child and Dimetman had to complete a second-parent adoption to be legally recognized as that child’s parent. Unless the couple’s 2009 Massachusetts wedding is recognized in Texas before the second child is born, only Dimetman will be automatically recognized as the child’s legal parent, forcing De Leon to go through the lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption process.

De Leon and Dimetman along with Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano are the second couple in the Texas case. The two have been together for about 14 years but are waiting for Texas to legally recognize same-sex marriage before tying the knot. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in February that the Texas gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

In the second case being reviewed by the 5th Circuit, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Sept. 3 upheld the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage, the first federal judge to rule against marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

Lambda Legal joined the case as council on Oct. 7.

Just three weeks after Feldman’s ruling, Judge Edward Rubin in Louisiana’s 15th Judicial District Court ruled, in the case Constanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, that the Louisiana marriage ban is unconstitutional.

So far, since the Windsor ruling last year, no federal appellate court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage bans. On Monday, Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals on seven cases from five states, leaving appellate decisions striking down bans from the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuit Courts in place. The 9th Circuit Court struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada the next day, and on Sunday, a federal judge in Alaska — which is part of the 9th Circuit — struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Appeals are also pending in the 6th and 11th Circuit Courts. Those two and the 5th Circuit are considered the most conservative in the country and the ones most likely to rule in favor of marriage bans.

—  Tammye Nash