The race to the Supreme Court intensifies, with multiple new lawsuits and an expedited schedule. Oregon won’t defend its marriage ban in court, and a marriage lawsuit in Virginia might have reached a premature end. Plus polling from Louisiana shows progress, but it’s been slow.
This week’s new federal marriage lawsuits are in Colorado and Ohio. Nine couples have sued Colorado for the freedom to marry. The arguments are familiar: that the state’s marriage ban violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution.
And a couple in Ohio has sued the state to obtain recognition of their marriage. This week the plaintiffs in a separate Ohio case asked for an expedited briefing schedule. That case is currently on appeal to the Sixth Circuit, so we could potentially have a Supreme-Court-ready decision in Ohio before the end of the year.
Four couples in an Idaho lawsuit want to put their case on a fast track too. They’ve asked the court to skip a trial and issue a ruling right away.
The attorney general of Oregon announced this week that she would not defend the state’s marriage ban. Ellen Rosenblum joins the attorneys general of California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois in refusing to defend what she considers an indefensible law.
After AFER’s huge victory in Virginia this month, the judge in another Virginia case is mulling whether to proceed. That second case, filed by the ACLU, is on a slower timeframe than AFER’s and may no longer be necessary.
And now polls in Louisiana show incremental progress in turning public opinion. Just 28% of voters favor the freedom to marry, an increase of only a few percentage points over the last twenty years.
A Virginia court finally hears arguments in AFER’s marriage case. We’ll have all the details. We have a clearer picture of how Utah will fight to keep its marriage ban in place. A new lawsuit hits Wisconsin, with life-or-death stakes for one couple. And this could be the week that we finally learn the fate of Indiana’s marriage ban.
Last week AFER finally had its hearing in the Virginia marriage case. Now a ruling could come at any time. Our opponents brought to court the same antiquated arguments that have failed in one case after another. They claimed that withholding marriage protects children, somehow, and encourages responsible procreation. These are the same claims that the Prop 8 proponents made in AFER’s California case. They didn’t work then, and time will tell whether they’ll work in Virginia.
Meanwhile a second Virginia case will proceed as a class action. That case was filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU, and is on a slower track than AFER’s.
We saw similarly weak arguments last week in Utah, where the state filed a brief in support of its marriage ban. As justification for preventing LGBT couples from marrying, the state cited the needs of children. Of course, just about every major child welfare organization in the country has spoken out in support of marriage equality.
The ACLU has asked for an expedited hearing in a separate case in Utah. That lawsuit will determine whether Utah must recognize the marriages performed between December 20 and January 6. Those couples are still in legal limbo, with the state claiming that recognition is “on hold” pending appeal.
And there’s another new federal lawsuit this week. This time it’s in Wisconsin. Four couples, represented by the ACLU, have sued the state. All four have compelling reasons for seeking the freedom to marry. For example, Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann established power of attorney for each other. But when Wangemann fell into a coma, his father tried to seize control from Badger and pull the plug on his son. Badger was able to keep his partner alive until he eventually awoke, but had they been married, his authority would never have been in question.
We’re expecting big news this week in Indiana. The marriage ban could go before the Senate Rules Committee sometime this week. This is a make or break time for the bill. Depending on what happens in the Senate, it’ll either go to voters this November or get a delay until 2016 at the earliest.
A surprise twist in AFER’s Virginia lawsuit. The Indiana House passes a marriage ban, but in so doing could actually delay its progress. Utah and Oklahoma cases are speeding towards the Supreme Court, and our chances for victory have greatly improved in Nevada. Plus there’s progress this week in West Virginia, Hawaii, and Kansas.
Last week a judge in Virginia ruled that oral arguments would proceed in AFER’s federal marriage case. But then we got an unexpected setback: snow. Bad weather postponed the hearing, scheduled for last Thursday, to Tuesday of this week. Stay tuned for further announcements about our day in court.
The Indiana House passed a constitutional marriage ban last week. But that might actually be good news. House lawmakers stripped the bill of a sentence that would have banned civil unions as well. Because the language was changed, the bill will likely have to start the approval process all over again, which would push it back to 2016, at the earliest. Indiana polling has fluctuated wildly, so it’s impossible to detect a trend that would predict how voters will behave in two years.
But it’s possible that the Senate could restore the language and refer the bill to a conference committee, in which case it could pass and head to voters this year. Or the Senate could kill it altogether. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the volatile situation there, with further developments expected this week.
We have a date for hearings in the Utah and Oklahoma cases. Both cases recently won major victories for equality, and now head separately to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court will hear the Utah case on April 10, and the Oklahoma case on April 17. Though the cases haven’t been consolidated, the court may rule simultaneously on both. If they rule promptly, both cases could go to the US Supreme Court in its next session.
Last week we reported that a Nevada case will be significantly impacted by a ruling in the Ninth Circuit that extended heightened scrutiny to LGBTs. Now Nevada Attorney General Katherine Cortez has announced that she will review the arguments made in a marriage case there. A district could had previously ruled against the freedom to marry, but this new standard of scrutiny could render all of our opponents’ arguments invalid on the pending appeal.
A case in West Virginia will progress after a judge denied a motion to dismiss. Marriage is safe in Hawaii, where a judge last week rejected a lawsuit against last year’s equality act. And Equality Kansas has requested the introduction of two bills to repeal that state’s marriage ban. It’s still too early to evaluate the bills’ chances of success, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation in Kansas.
We have big news in Virginia this week, as AFER nears decision in the federal case there. A new ruling in Nevada could be the key to victory. Lawsuits also advance in Florida, Michigan and Oregon, and signature-gathering starts in Arkansas.
Virginia State Attorney General Mark Herring has announced that the state will no longer defend its marriage ban in court. This is a major shift in the state’s position, and it will have a big impact on AFER’s federal lawsuit. We had a hearing scheduled for Thursday of this week, but the announcement, the court ordered all parties to file new reports about whether oral argument is still warranted. Those reports were due on Friday of last week.
Now, the court could make any number of rulings at any time. They could decide to go ahead with the hearing this Thursday. Or they could skip the hearing altogether and rule right away. We could have a decision from the court at any time, so be on the lookout for major breaking news from Virginia.
Meanwhile, Virginia lawmakers have killed a marriage equality bill. House Republicans vetoed the bill in committee last week. That means that for now, AFER’s case is Virginia’s best shot at winning the freedom to marry.
The state of Nevada has filed a brief defending its marriage ban. It’s the usual language about protecting tradition and promoting biological parenting. These justifications have been soundly rejected by other courts. And more importantly, last week the Ninth Circuit ruled in a separate case that LGBTs are entitled to a higher level of judicial scrutiny. A previous court had ruled against equality in Nevada, but with this new standard of scrutiny, our chances of victory have significantly improved.
There’s a brand new lawsuit in Florida. Equality Florida and NCLR have sued the state on behalf of six couples. A survey last week shows support growing, at 47% to 44% opposed.
The legal team in Michigan is beefing up. The ACLU and GLAD have joined the case there, with a trial slated to start on February 25th. And two cases in Oregon have now been consolidated, which will hopefully expedite a decision.
A constitutional marriage ban continues to advance in Indiana. Last week a committee approved the measure. Now it heads to the full House, and from there to voters in November.
Organizers in Arkansas have launched a signature-gathering campaign to overturn that state’s marriage ban. They’ll need tens of thousands of signatures, and repeal will go before voters in 2016 at the earliest. Polling in Arkansas isn’t great. Last year, survey found just 36% support for marriage. And a new survey last week showed 22% for marriage, 24% for civil unions, and 50% for no recognition.
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