marriage equality

  • July 17, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    In another victory for equality, Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was invalidated this afternoon. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and ordered that two Key West residents be allowed to wed, but not before Tuesday.

    According to the Miami Herald, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. There is a similar suit pending in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.

    In both cases, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum argued that Garcia and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel should not dismiss Florida’s constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with the support of 62 percent of voters.

    LGBT rights advocates continue to ride a wave of success since last year’s landmark Supreme Court decisions striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and putting an end to California’s Prop. 8. Just last week a judge struck down Kentucky’s marriage ban. Earlier this month, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. rejected a county official's bid to suspend a ruling that overturned Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban. In Colorado, a District Court judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and the Utah attorney general announced he would appeal a court decision in favor of marriage equality in the state to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed a federal judge's ruling from June striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriages. The case now heads to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

    According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico. Cases from twelve states are currently pending before six federal appeals courts. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court.  Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 16 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.  These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.

  • June 6, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    This afternoon U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crab overturned Wisconsin’s ban on marriages by gay and lesbian couples.  The ban, which was approved by voters in 2006, is now opposed by the majority of Wisconsin voters.  A recent Marquette University Law School poll found 55 percent of registered voters statewide now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, while 37 percent oppose it and 6 percent say they do not know.

    According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen acknowledged last month that he would not be surprised to lose the case. He had asked the judge to immediately stay her own decision if she ruled to invalidate the ban. The report notes that normally, lawyers wait until a judge rules before asking for a stay. The state was given until June 16 to submit a proposed injunction of the ruling.

    The Journal Sentinel also reports that clerks in Milwaukee, Dane, Waukesha and other counties say they were prepared for the ruling and for an expected stream of gay couples coming in to obtain marriage licenses.

    In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to enact a gay rights law, banning discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation.

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday also refused to block marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon

  • June 5, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon. In a one-sentence order, the Court rejected the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage’s request to stay the May 19 federal court ruling allowing gays and lesbians to marry in Oregon. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who rules on emergency cases in the western region of Oregon, referred the issue to the full court, which then declined to get involved without giving a reason. Proponents of marriage equality in Oregon are now likely to drop a proposed ballot measure they had planned to take to voters in November.

    The high court’s action is another blow to opponents of marriage equality. Since last summer when the Court ruled in Hollingsworth v. Perry that anti-equality forces in California did not have standing to appeal a ruling striking down Prop. 8 and, on the same day, struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor which prevented the federal government from recognizing legal marriages of same-sex couples, a string of trial court judges have struck down state bans on marriage equality. (At the 2014 ACS National Convention, lawyers for Edith Windsor will discuss their involvement in the landmark Windsor case, see convention schedule here.)

    According to the Human Rights Campaign, 19 states and the District of Columbia now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Another two states provide the equivalent of state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, and one state, Wisconsin, provides some statewide spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state.  Meanwhile, marriage bans have been struck down in Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky, Idaho, Michigan, Utah and Arkansas, but those decisions have been stayed pending appeal.   

    Some LGBT rights activists have said they expect marriage equality to be the law in every state within the next five years.  While that may be decided in the Supreme Court’s next term, there is little room for doubt that equality is marching forward.    

  • February 14, 2014

    by James Colligan

    Before the movement for marriage equality began to gather steam Virginia, like a slew of other states, banned same sex-marriage either with laws or constitutional amendments or in the case of North Carolina, both.

    For instance in 2006 through a referendum Virginians voted to amend their Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Actually that amendment was rather sweeping, not only defining marriage as exclusively a union between a man and woman, but also prohibiting civil unions and all other contracts to “which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

    But some of those states’ constitutional amendments and laws, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in U.S. v. Windsor, are looking increasingly vulnerable.

    The Virginia ban was challenged last year on the grounds of violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment by two couples. Tim Bostic and Tony London have been together for 24 years. Carol Schall and Mary Townley have been together for 30 years. Even though Schall and Townley were legally wed in California, Virginia’s constitutional ban meant it would not recognize those same-sex marriages. The couples’ challenge to the constitutional amendment was considered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia earlier this month.  

    Judge Arenda Wright Allen on Thursday found Virginia’s ban to subvert the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. In her ruling, Wright Allen wrote, “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices – choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”

  • January 22, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Joshua Block, LGBT Project, American Civil Liberties Union
     
    This post originally appeared on the ACLU's Blog of Rights.
     
    Yesterday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Utah to force the state to continue recognizing the marriages of more than 1,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in the weeks after a federal court struck down Utah’s bans on allowing same-sex couples to marry. From the moment the federal court in Kitchen v. Herbert issued its decision on December 20, 2013, to the moment the Supreme Court issued a stay of the ruling on January 6, 2014 while the case is appealed, there was an outpouring of same-sex couples across the state who were finally able to express their love and commitment to each other through marriage and to protect their families through the protections and responsibilities that flow from being legally married.
     
    After the Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the district court’s decision Utah’s governor has issued a directive ordering all state agencies to put the recognition of those marriages “on hold.” By terminating recognition of their marriages, the Governor’s directive effectively divorced over 1,000 couples in the eyes of the state, throwing their lives into disarray.
     
    “We’re back at square one, with no idea what’s going to happen to us if one of us is hospitalized,” says Stacia. Her wife JoNell was treated much better when accompanying her during an emergency room visit after they were married than she was the time medical staff ignored and excluded JoNell during a previous hospitalization three years ago.  “After 13 years together, we just want the security and peace of mind to know we can be there for each other in the hard times.”