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VA Marriage Hearing is This Week

By Matt Baume

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.

34 Comments February 3, 2014

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Equality news round-up: Virginia updates, and more

News from Virginia, Michigan, and more.

Continue 4 Comments January 28, 2014

Virginia Marriage Decision Could Come This Week

By Matt Baume

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.

2 Comments January 27, 2014

Dueling Marriage Victories in the Midwest

By Matt Baume

A huge victory in Oklahoma this week, with yet another marriage ban declared unconstitutional. Now comes the appeal, in the same federal circuit as the Utah case. We’ll take a look at what to expect. Plus, more progress across the country, from Indiana to Texas to Idaho and Georgia.

We’ve won another major victory. This time it’s Oklahoma, where a federal court ruled that banning marriage equality is unconstitutional. As in other states, the court rejected the state’s arguments about encouraging responsible procreation.

For now, the decision is stayed, pending appeal to the 10th circuit. That’s the same circuit as Utah, which is also appealing a pro-equality ruling. The Utah case is moving very quickly, so it will probably be heard before Oklahoma’s appeal. Or the cases could be consolidated.

There’s also a new lawsuit to consider in Utah. The state had previously announced that it would not recognize the marriage licenses that it issued. Now the ACLU has now announced its plan to sue the state, forcing it to recognize those licenses.

And there’s new polling data in Utah. A Salt Lake Tribune Poll shows public opinion for and against equality tied at 48 percent. This reflects a slow but steady climb in support dating back over two decades of data.

Meanwhile, there are several additional states facing major decisions in the coming weeks. We’re just one week away from a hearing in AFER’s federal lawsuit in Virginia. Ohio has appealed a ruling that required the state to recognize marriages on death certificates. And a lawsuit in Texas will move ahead after a judge declined to consolidate it with two other cases. The next hearing in that case is in February.

There’s also a lawsuit in Idaho. Last week, State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden asked the court to dismiss the suit. Also last week, Idaho lawmakers approved a rule that would require married LGBT couples to file separate tax forms.

We heard testimony on a marriage ban last week in Indiana, and we could see a vote any day now. Lawmakers are expected to pass the ban, which would send it to voters for approval in November.

And organizers in Georgia have unveiled a marriage equality plan. Public support is relatively low, 32 to 60 percent in the last poll. So the plan calls for a three-to-five year, ten million dollar public education campaign. Currently, Georgia Equality is fundraising for an initial “Why Marriage Matters” outreach project.

3 Comments January 21, 2014

Support for Marriage Equality Sees Huge Jump in Utah

By Matt Baume

New polls show a dramatic shift in public opinion following marriage equality in Utah. But that’s hasn’t stopped the Supreme Court from blocking weddings — for now. We have new details about cases in Arizona, Missouri, and West Virginia. Plus, legislators introduce a new marriage ban in Indiana, but with fewer backers than expected.

Marriage equality is now on hold in Utah, but public support continues to rise. The US Supreme Court ruled that marriages must halt while the case makes its way through the appeals process. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will receive briefs over the next few weeks, and then hear oral argument possibly as soon as March.

In the mean time, organizers are preparing to bolster their defense of last month’s pro-equality ruling. The National Center for Lesbian Rights has just joined the Utah case as a co-counsel. NCLR has successfully litigated numerous marriage suits, including the case that brought marriage equality to California in 2008.

It’s been about two years since we had an opinion poll in Utah on this issue. But a new survey shows a dramatic increase in public support, with 41 percent favoring marriage, 24 percent for civil unions, and just 31 percent opposed to any relationship recognition.

Arizona could be the next state to make marriage news. There’s a new lawsuit there, and Attorney Shawn Aiken is seeking a trial on the merits. That means providing testimony and evidence in the 10th circuit, just as AFER did in the 9th circuit with the Prop 8 case.

Legislators in Indiana have introduced a long-expected constitutional marriage ban. Although the bill has lost supporters since its last vote, it’s likely to pass and head to voters this fall.

There’s a new lawsuit in Missouri, but this time it’s from anti-gay groups. They’re suing the state over a policy that recognizes out-of-state licenses for tax purposes. Missouri’s tax laws are complicated: they’re tied to the federal government, which recognizes licenses. But the state also prohibits relationship recognition. Now it’s up to a judge to reconcile that contradiction.

Expect major news in several cases over the next few weeks. We have a conference this week in West Virginia, where three couples are suing for the freedom to marry. AFER’s case against Virginia’s marriage ban will get a hearing on January 30. And a case against Michigan’s marriage ban has a hearing coming up on February 25.

15 Comments January 13, 2014

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