This week I’m in Pennsylvania, which gained the freedom to marry just a few months ago. We have big victories this week in Kentucky, and a ton of hearings coming up from one side of the country to the other. There’s a battle of wills and a surprise move in Colorado. And one of the Prop 8 lawyers is headed back to court — this time, as a judge.
It was in May that a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s marriage ban was unconstitutional. Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal, and marriage has been legal ever since. A county clerk has repeatedly tried and failed to challenge the marriages in court. But just this week, the Third Circuit denied her request.
A judge in Kentucky has ruled that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear argued that banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying encouraged straight couples to reproduce, but Judge John Heyburn called these arguments “not those of serious people.”
The case now moves on to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is already scheduled to hear five other marriage equality cases on August 6th. And the Ninth Circuit will hear three more cases on September 8th.
Boulder, Colorado County Clerk Hillary Hall continues to issue licences to gay and lesbian couples, despite Attorney General John Suthers’ insistence that the licenses are invalid. But in a surprise move, Suthers has now asked the Tenth Circuit to overturn the state’s marriage ban, and to issue a stay that would prevent any more licenses from being issued until the matter is resolved by the U. S. Supreme Court next year. In the mean time, six more couples have filed a new lawsuit over Colorado’s marriage ban.
Indiana is on the fast track to an appeal before the Seventh Circuit. The court has scheduled briefing to conclude in early August. Florida held a hearing this week, with a ruling due any day now. And officials in Jackson County, Missouri have announced they will not defend the state’s marriage ban.
And finally this week, congratulations to Terry Stewart, who was just nominated to serve on the First District Court of Appeal in California. Stewart, as Chief Deputy City Attorney for San Francisco, was instrumental in defending marriage equality from San Francisco’s 2004 marriages all the way through the Prop 8 case.
Hi there. This week my marriage equality road trip takes me to Fargo, North Dakota this week, then on to Minneapolis. We have big news from four states in the Sixth Circuit this week. Plus a strong showing for the freedom to marry in a Colorado case.
North Dakota was one of many states to pass a marriage ban back in 2004. And ten years later, it was the last state to challenge its ban with a lawsuit. That case is now working its way through federal court. In the mean time, public support is rapidly growing. In 2004, support was at just 23%, but by 2012 that had nearly doubled to 40%.
There’s a major court date coming up for several states. On August Sixth, a federal appeals court will hear oral argument in five separate marriage cases, covering challenges in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. All of these cases are very different, but the court will hear them all on the same day.
The Tennessee case is quite limited, and for now just applies to the three plaintiff couples. The two Ohio cases cover out-of-state licenses and death certificates. The Kentucky case also concerns out-of-state licenses. The Michigan case is much more broad, covering the freedom to marry throughout the state. The case got a boost recently when some major Republican figures in Michigan filed a brief in support of the freedom to marry.
Organizers in Ohio are calling off an attempt to overturn that state’s marriage ban at the ballot. They’ll be unable to meet signature requirements in time. This was a controversial effort, with other Ohio equality groups favoring public education before going to the ballot. Public support for marriage equality has increased five percentage points in just the last year in Ohio, reaching 50%.
A federal judge heard oral argument last week in a challenge to Colorado’s marriage ban. District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree pointed out that fifteen judges have recently struck down similar bans in other states. He’s expected to rule soon.
The National Organization for Marriage screws up again in Oregon. Judges in Idaho and Arkansas rule that marriage bans violate the US Constitution. Following another round of hearings, rulings are due any day now in Virginia and Pennsylvania. And a new lawsuit in Alaska leaves just three states with an unchallenged marriage ban.
Let’s start with Virginia, where AFER’s attorneys were back in court last week to defend their previous victory. Earlier this year, a federal district court overturned Virginia’s marriage ban. That ruling was appealed, and now that oral arguments are done, we’ll hopefully have a ruling within the next few weeks. From there it’s on to the US Supreme Court.
It’s been a busy few days in Arkansas. First Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. That led to numerous gay couples getting married over the previous weekend. Then on Wednesday of last week the state Supreme Court briefly halted the weddings, due to some problematic wording in the decision. And then on Thursday Judge Piazza revised his order, and marriages resumed. He also rejected an attempt by the state to put the ruling on hold, and cited the irreparable harm caused by the marriage ban. So marriages are back on in Arkansas.
But they’re off, for now, in Idaho. Another federal judge ruled against that state’s marriage ban last week. Judge Candy W. Dale ruled that the state’s justification for the ban was “so attenuated that it is not rational,” and ordered marriage to begin on Friday. But before that could happen, the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that marriages had to wait until after an appeal.
The National Organization for Marriage had a big setback in Oregon this week. A judge has overturned that state’s marriage ban. Previously, NOM had attempted to intervene in that state’s marriage lawsuit, and they had a hearing on Wednesday. But Judge Michael McShane ruled that their request came too late, and now they won’t be allowed to participate. NOM also suggested that McShane was unqualified to rule in the case, because he is gay. He rejected that argument as well.
Pennsylvania also saw oral arguments last week. There are currently five lawsuits in that state, and both sides have requested an expedited ruling.
And there’s a new lawsuit in Alaska. Five couples have sued the state for recognition. Now the only states with no legal challenge to a marriage ban are North Dakota or Montana. A lawsuit is currently in the planning stages but not yet filed in South Dakota.
There’s also a new lawsuit in Florida. Gildas Dousset is a student at Florida Atlantic University, married to a longtime Florida resident. Dousset applied for spousal financial assistance, but was turned down because the state didn’t recognize their Massachusetts marriage license. He’s now suing the state for recognition.
And finally this week, a new study from the Williams Institute shows that marriage equality would generate $39 billion for Indiana over the next three years. Indiana organizers recently defeated an attempt to add a marriage ban to the state constitution. The state still has a statutory marriage ban, but there are currently five separate lawsuits challenging it.
AFER heads back to court this week to protect its latest marriage equality win. Kentucky’s Attorney General is running to become the state’s first pro-equality Governor. Oregon surveys look encouraging, but voters could still pass a turn-away-the-gays discrimination bill. And a new public education campaign in puts LGBT family members front and center in Oklahoma.
This week we had some late breaking news after we shot this week’s episode. A judge in Arizona has ruled that the state’s marriage ban violates the US Constitution. This is a big deal, but in an unusual twist, the judge allowed marriages to start right away while the state appeals. This weekend numerous couples were able to obtain marriage licenses in Arkansas. It’s unclear how long they’ll be able to do so, or whether the state is willing to recognize the licenses. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the next steps in this case.
This is it — AFER heads back to court on Tuesday of this week to defend their Virginia victory for marriage equality. Plaintiff couples Tim and Tony and Carol and Mary want to get married in their home state on Virginia. This past February, a federal judge ruled that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. Opponents appealed that decision, and now we have oral arguments this week. A ruling will come sometime thereafter, and from there the next step is the US Supreme Court.
Oral arguments are also scheduled this week in a Pennsylvania marriage case. Last week State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced that defending the state’s marriage ban was costing millions of dollars.
Two states are stepping up public education efforts. In Oklahoma, new TV ads show the Cuyler family supporting marriage equality for their lesbian daughter. And in Michigan, organizers have just launched the “Michigan for Marriage” campaign, which will push out messages on TV and social media.
A judge in Indiana has ordered the state to recognize a marriage — but just one. The couple in question is Nikole Quasney and Amy Sandler, who sued the state for recognition after Quasney was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This week Judge Richard L. Young ruled that while their lawsuit is in progress, the state must recognize their marriage. According to Young, the couple is likely to ultimately prevail in their challenge.
Meanwhile in Missouri, a judge just ruled in favor of the state’s first gay divorce. Judge Leslie Schneider ruled narrowly that denying the divorce violates the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. This could provide a path forward towards overturning the state’s ban in the future.
There’s a new lawsuit in Alabama. Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand married in California in 2008, and are now suing for recognition in Alabama, after the state refused to recognize them both as their own son’s parents.
Get ready for a ruling in Idaho. After oral argument last week, Judge Candy W. Dale says she’ll rule on the federal case relatively soon.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has announced his candidacy for governor. This is a big deal, since he has been a strong advocate for the freedom to marry. Following a pro-equality ruling last February, Conway decided not to appeal the decision, saying that the marriage ban is unconstitutional. That ruling is now on appeal, with an opening brief filed just last week by current Governor Steve Beshear.
And there’s good news in Oregon. A new survey shows support for marriage equality continues to climb. A marriage equality ballot measure may head to the ballot this November. Voters will also face a separate measure that would allow businesses to turn away customers simply for being gay.
And finally, this week marks the tenth anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts. All indications are that society somehow hasn’t yet crumbled.
South Dakota’s Attorney General says he’ll fight a lesbian couple in court to stop them from having their marriage recognized. Alaska’s highest court has ruled against the state’s marriage ban after a deliberation of over a year and a half. We have several new lawsuits, plus a major ruling coming this week in Arkansas.
May’s going to be a big month for marriage equality, starting with a ruling this week in Arkansas. Twenty couples filed suit nearly a year ago, and now Judge Chris Piazza has confirmed that he’ll issue a ruling by this Friday. This is a state lawsuit, but a separate federal lawsuit is also pending in Arkansas.
Meanwhile, we’ve had significant action in lawsuits in other states. In Alaska, the state Supreme Court ruled that gay couples and straight couples must be treated equally when it comes to property taxes. This is a complicated case. In fact, it took the Supreme Court over a year and a half to come to its decision. And it’s still not clear just how this will affect marriage equality, since the lawsuit was very narrowly focused on taxes. But it’s still a major victory: Alaska’s highest court has ruled that marriage discrimination violates citizens’ right to equal protection.
A religious group in North Carolina has sued the state over its marriage ban. The federal suit argues that the ban limits the religious freedom of ministers who wish to marry LGBT couples.
There’s a brand new federal lawsuit in Ohio. This follows a series of very narrow rulings that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. And there are new plaintiffs in a Florida case. An organization there has added Arlene Goldberg to an existing federal lawsuit. Her wife Carol Goldwasser recently passed away, but the state is denying Goldberg access to her late wife’s social security. A new survey in Florida shows support for marriage equality at 56 to 39 percent.
And a new survey in Colorado shows support at a record high, at 61 percent to 33 percent opposed.
And finally, South Dakota’s going to get its first marriage equality lawsuit any minute now. Last week, lesbian couple Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn got married in Minnesota, and now they plan to file suit against their home state of South Dakota to get recognition. Attorney General Marty Jackley says he’ll fight the women in court.
The National Organization for Marriage is scrambling to defend Oregon’s marriage ban at the last minute, but things aren’t exactly going how they’d hoped. The case to overturn Virginia’s marriage ban gets a boost from one of the authors of the state’s constitution. And the Governor of Pennsylvania wants to skip a trial on marriage and go straight to a ruling.
Last October, four couples filed suit against Oregon, arguing that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. And the state agreed, saying during oral arguments last Thursday that the law should be overturned.
In fact, until last Tuesday, no one was willing to defend the ban in court. But with just hours to go before oral arguments, NOM suddenly asked to intervene and requested a delay in the case. Judge Michael McShane declined, and told NOM that they’ll get a separate hearing on May 14 to determine whether they should be allowed to defend the ban. There’s a lot riding on his decision. If the ban is upheld, then organizers will move ahead with efforts to overturn it at the ballot in November.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Williams Institute shows that marriage equality would add $47 million to Oregon’s economy. And separate reports indicate that marriage would be worth $15.5 million in Utah, and $60 million in Virginia. That news comes as a slew of organizations file briefs in support of AFER’s case to overturn Virginia’s marriage ban. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has refused to defend the ban in court, and now he’s gained a powerful ally: Professor A.E. Dick Howard, one the authors of Virginia’s current Constitution.
In Georgia, four couples have launched a brand new lawsuit against the state. They include Shane Thomas and Michael Bishop, who are raising two kids together; Atlanta police officers Rayshawn and Avery Chandler; Shelton Stroman and Christopher Inniss; and Jennifer Sisson. Her wife Pamela Drenner passed away a month ago from ovarian cancer, and the state refused to recognize their marriage on her death certificate.
We have good news from Texas, where Judge Barbara Nellermoe has found the state’s marriage ban unconstitutional. Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal the ruling.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett wants to hasten a ruling in a court challenge to Pennsylvania’s marriage ban. The case has been pending since July, but now both sides want to skip a June trial and go straight to a decision based on briefs. The deadline for those briefs is May 12, so it’s possible we could get a ruling anytime after that date.
And keep your eye on South Dakota — two women are planning to file a lawsuit there this week. That would leave just three states with unchallenged marriage bans: Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota.
Equality on Trial's Case Timeline is the go-to place to find thorough, up-to-date information on the myriad of marriage equality lawsuits taking place across the US.
Welcome to Equality on Trial!
Got suggestions? Questions? Notice bugs? Email us here.
Connect With Us
Want to submit a guest piece for publication on Equality On Trial? Submit your piece with your byline, title and any appropriate links (and HTML if possible) to: equalityontrial [at] couragecampaign [dot] org.