marriage equality

  • October 6, 2014

    by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director for Human Rights Campaign

    *This post originally appeared on the HRC Blog

    Today, the Supreme Court made history--bringing final marriage victories to five states and paving the way for six more. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s announcement also means we are still waiting for a decision that will grant national marriage equality. In the meantime, here are a few FAQs about what today's news may mean for you and your family. 

    What cases did the Supreme Court decline to hear?

    The Supreme Court declined to hear five cases appealed from three circuits challenging state level marriage bans including Bostic v. Schaefer from the Fourth Circuit in Virginia, Wolf v. Walker in the Seventh Circuit from Wisconsin, and two cases from the Tenth circuit -- Bishop v. Smith in Oklahoma and Kitchen v. Herbert in Utah.

     Which circuits will be impacted by today’s Supreme Court denial to hear marriage equality cases in the 2014-2015 term?

    The Supreme Court declined to hear every marriage equality case pending before it.  These cases were appealed from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits. 

  • September 17, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    It has been apparent for quite some time that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide on marriage equality in the not-so-distant future. Since last year’s historic decisions striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and putting an end to California’s Prop. 8, court after court has struck down state marriage bans across the country.

    Last month Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court will not "[duck] the issue" if a marriage equality case comes properly before the court and predicted that would happen by June 2016 at the latest. Last night, Justice Ginsburg was talking marriage equality again. Speaking to an audience in Minnesota, the Associated Press reports Ginsburg said cases pending before the circuit covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee would probably play a role in the high court's timing. She said "there will be some urgency" if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand. Such a decision would run contrary to a legal trend favoring gay marriage and force the Supreme Court to step in sooner, she predicted.

    Now the question is which case or cases will make it to the high court. The Associated Press reports Ginsburg didn't get into the merits of any particular case or any state's gay marriage ban, but she marveled at the "remarkable" shift in public perception of same-sex marriage that she attributes to gays and lesbians being more open about their relationships. Same-sex couples can legally wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.

  • 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.