Filed under: Civil Unions
A new lawsuit joins the many others brewing across the U.S.
Continue November 1, 2013 Leave a Comment
Yet another New Jersey lawmaker–and another Republican, at that–has announced he will support a vote to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a marriage equality bill that passed early last year. Politicker NJ reports:
Assemblyman Chris A. Brown said during a Wednesday evening legislative debate he would vote to override the Republican governor’s veto. Brown’s announcement marks the first time during the lead up to an override vote that a lawmaker who voted against the same-sex marriage bill last year publically announced they would change their vote.
“This is a decision I came to on my own,” Brown said following the debate after telling Atlantic City residents civil rights shouldn’t be decided by a ballot referendum – as Christie has advocated.
“I just believe when it comes to civil rights, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the public to vote on it,” he said.
Reports have already suggested that four New Jersey assembly members, two of them Republicans, will support the override bill. Brown, however, is the first lawmaker who voted against the marriage equality bill in 2012 to change his position and announce a yes vote on the veto override. (The other assembly members were not present for the initial vote.)
As the numbers of supporting lawmakers keep creeping up, marriage equality advocates in the Garden State now need seven more assembly members to back the override. They also need three more votes in the Senate, where no members have announced a change of heart.
Last month, a state court judge in Trenton ruled that New Jersey’s civil unions are unconstitutional in light of the end of Section 3 of DOMA and ordered the state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Gov. Christie’s administration requested last week that the state’s supreme court hear the appeal and issue a speedy decision, rather than waiting for the case to proceed through the lower appellate courts.
Big (and mostly good) news out of New Jersey: Republican Governor Chris Christie has asked that the appeal of a pro-marriage equality decision issued by a state court judge last week go directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Continue October 1, 2013 1 Comment
A majority of Indianans opposes an anti-marriage equality amendment, and a fourth Arizona city approves civil unions.
Continue September 25, 2013 Leave a Comment
Michigan marriage equality lawsuit to be argued October 1; new filings in Illinois marriage challenges
A scheduling conference in the lawsuit challenging Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, DeBoer v. Snyder, took place yesterday, July 10 in federal district court. The federal judge declined to dismiss the case last week, but did not issue a final ruling or a schedule for further motions or arguments, putting the decision off until yesterday’s conference.
No final decision on the merits of the constitutional challenge to the ban was released yesterday, and the judge has set oral arguments for October 1. Challenges against same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Hawaii are likely to see oral arguments in October as well, though probably at the end of the month, since an extension of time was sought to file briefs. Those cases are already in the appeals court, though, at the Ninth Circuit.
In Illinois, Lambda Legal has filed a motion for summary judgment in Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr. This is a request for a decision on the merits, (in the plaintiffs’ favor, in this case.) Their brief in support of summary judgment is much like the one they filed in the New Jersey case: both are state cases, both states have civil unions. In one section, they write:
Plaintiffs who obtained civil unions by license from illinois county clerks currently are denied a number of federal benefits and protections that would be available to them and their families if they could marry now that DOMA has been struck down.
The filing goes on to list specific ways civil unions deny same-sex couples equal protection under the law afforded to opposite-sex couples. There is no timeline for the court to act in the case.
Post-DOMA, federal government issues memos announcing that benefits for same-sex couples will not be extended to civil unions, domestic partnerships
The Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management has issued memos making it clear that federal benefits for married same-sex and opposite-sex couples will still only apply to those couples, and benefits will not be given to people in civil unions or domestic partnerships:
The Office of Personnel Management made that announcement in a series of memos to federal benefits administrators and insurance carriers, saying couples who are not legally married “will remain ineligible for most federal benefits programs.” However, any existing benefits provided to domestic partners will remain intact, OPM said.
That means same sex couples living anywhere in the U.S. will qualify for federal-employee benefits as long as they hold marriage licenses from any of the 13 states that recognize same-sex marriage, as well as from the District of Columbia, which has also legalized such unions.
Questions remain about how the administration will treat same-sex couples and domestic partners outside the federal workforce, including with Social Security, tax and veterans’ benefits. The agencies that handle those programs have not issued guidance.
The memos reiterate what was already the law post-DOMA; no changes have been made. They simply offered guidance for particular groups working to implement the changes they are now allowed to enforce without Section 3 of DOMA.
There is one interesting aspect of the decision to explicitly say that the benefits won’t be offered to people in domestic partnerships or civil unions, however. As EqualityOnTrial has written recently, Lambda Legal’s strategy in the New Jersey marriage equality lawsuit has been to point out that with Section 3 of DOMA gone, same-sex couples in New Jersey, a civil union state, aren’t treated equally and are now denied at least 1,138 federal benefits because the state declines to allow these couples to marry:
Before the Windsor decision, same-sex couples in states with marriage equality (for instance, New York) and in civil unions in states like New Jersey were treated the same by the federal government: namely, their marriages were ignored. Although the CURC held that New Jersey’s civil unions did not grant full equality even under state law the way that equal marriage rights would, there was a case to be made–pre-DOMA–that civil unions in New Jersey weren’t all that different from marriage equality in New York. As Lambda Legal writes, that is no longer true:
[A]fter Windsor, there simply can be no question but that same-sex couples in New Jersey are denied the equal benefits expressly guaranteed by Lewis, thus inflicting precisely the indignity which the New Jersey Supreme Court, in that opinion, abhorred.
Lambda Legal is referring here, of course, to the federal benefits which the U.S. government is now in the process of extending to married same-sex couples in the wake of the DOMA decision. In other words, civil unions in New Jersey now prohibit same-sex couples from accessing federal benefits–since the federal government does not recognize couples in civil unions as eligible for such benefits–which these couples could obtain with New Jersey marriage licenses.
The new memos from the federal government echo the facts Lambda Legal has presented, and they seem to offer evidence of the stark legal differences between civil unions and domestic partnerships on the one hand, and marriage on the other. It adds more evidence, from the federal government itself, that the states which continue to offer only civil unions or domestic partnerships but not marriage are not treating same-sex couples similarly to opposite-sex couples.