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Triple-Loss for NOM in Oregon

By Matt Baume

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.

39 Comments May 19, 2014

Showdown this Week in Virginia

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.

17 Comments May 12, 2014

Marriage Equality Wins Big in Alaska

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.

173 Comments May 5, 2014

NOM’s Latest Failure

By Matt Baume

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.

45 Comments April 28, 2014

Prop 8 Lawyer Plans Lesbian Daughter’s Wedding

By Matt Baume

The lawyer who led the defense of Proposition 8 now says his attitudes are evolving as he plans his daughter’s lesbian wedding. Michigan officials are trying to invalidate hundreds of couples’ marriage licenses, but now those couples are fighting back. And a Judge in Ohio has issued one of the most strongly-worded rejections of a marriage ban to date.

For decades, Charles Cooper has been one of the country’s leading legal opponents of marriage equality. And now, he’s planning his daughter’s lesbian wedding. We last saw Cooper defending Prop 8 at the US Supreme Court. And his history with marriage bans goes back to the 1990s, when he argued against the freedom to marry in Hawaii.

But now Cooper’s step-daughter, Ashley Lininger, is planning marry her fiancee Casey Cole this coming June. Cooper supports her, and says that his attitude on marriage equality is evolving. He also indicated that the Prop 8 plaintiff couples Sandy and Kris are an inspiration to his family. The revelation comes from Jo Becker’s new book, Forcing the Spring a behind the scenes look at the Prop 8 litigation.

Married couples in Michigan are fighting to keep their marriages. The couples wed a few weeks ago after a court overturned the state’s marriage ban, and before the court halted the weddings pending appeal a few hours later. Michigan is now refusing to recognize those marriages. But in response, eight couples have now filed suit against the state.

There’s been another victory in Ohio: Judge Timothy Black has ruled that four couples who sued the state can now get married. But until the case has exhausted its appeals, no other couples than those four can wed. But Black’s ruling was emphatic. He stated that Ohio’s marriage ban is “staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination.”

A federal court in Oklahoma overturned a marriage ban a few months ago. Last week the 10th circuit heard oral argument in an appeal. We’ll likely have a ruling in that case and a similar case in Utah sometime this summer. And a judge in Arkansas has announced that he’ll likely issue a ruling in a marriage case two weeks from now.

In Oregon, Judge Michael J McShane will hear oral arguments on Wednesday of this week. The outcome of that case will determine whether the state moves ahead with a marriage equality ballot measure. A new study from the Williams Institute shows that marriage equality would generate $47 million for Oregon’s economy.

19 Comments April 22, 2014

Six New Lawsuits Complicate Marriage Equality Fight

By Matt Baume

AFER’s marriage lawsuit in Virginia is picking up speed, with a faster schedule and new parties. We have new lawsuits this week in four different states. And one state’s Young Republicans break ranks with the state party to endorse the freedom to marry.

Big news in Virginia this week. A judge has granted AFER’s request for an expedited schedule, which means we’ll see opening briefs later this month, replies in April, and oral arguments at a hearing in May. And that’s not all. The judge has also allowed plaintiffs in a second Virginia case to intervene in AFER’s. That means those parties will lend their support to upholding last month’s victory.

But as the Virginia case speeds up, a lawsuit in Nevada is slowing down. The 9th Circuit has indefinitely postponed oral arguments in Sevcik v Sandoval, with no explanation.

Meanwhile, in Utah, plaintiffs in Evans v Utah case argued last week that the state should recognize the licenses issued after a pro-equality ruling in December. A ruling in that case could come at any time. And the 10th Circuit will hear an appeal of that prior pro-equality ruling in less than a month.

We’ll have a decision soon in a Michigan marriage case. With the trial concluding last week, the judge has indicated a timeframe of about two weeks for a ruling.

And we have six additional lawsuits to watch as of this week. The first is in Florida, where there were already two separate marriage cases. We have a new marriage lawsuit this week in South Carolina, another in Arizona, and three new marriage suits in Indiana.

The Oregon Young Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality, despite opposition from the state party. That’s consistent with national trends. New Pew research shows that 61 percent of Republicans under 30 support the freedom to marry. That’s compared with just 27 percent of Republicans over 50.

5 Comments March 17, 2014

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