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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

State Officials Take Opposite Sides Over KY Marriage Ban

By Matt Baume

Two more polls show public support for marriage equality at a historic high — and our opponents at a historic low. Marriages are happening early in Illinois, we have new lawsuits in Florida and Wyoming, and Kentucky’s Attorney General takes a stand against the state’s marriage ban.

Kentucky’s Jack Conway is the latest Attorney General to refuse to defend a marriage ban in court. He made the announcement last week in response to a ruling that the state must recognize out-of-state licenses for LGBT couples. Now Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will have to hire outside counsel to appeal the decision.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a statement last week that county clerks may immediately issue marriage licenses, rather than waiting until the previous deadline of June First. According to Madigan, denying licenses now would be unconstitutional.

One Illinois county began issuing licenses on February 21st, handing out over 250 during just the first week. Among the Cook County couples married were six police officers, 21 teachers, 33 retirees, and a forklift operator.

There’s a new marriage lawsuit in Florida, where a couple has sued for recognition of their Canadian marriage. This is the state’s second lawsuit, the previous one being brought in January by six couples and Equality Florida.

There’s also a new lawsuit in Wyoming. Four couples, along with Wyoming Equality and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have sued in state court.

And finally this week we have multiple new national surveys showing the continuing surge in support for marriage. This week’s data come from a Washington Post ABC poll and a New York Times poll. The surveys, along with a PRRI survey last month, show support between 53 and 59 percent. This also marks a historic low for our opponents, at 34 percent.

5 Comments March 12, 2014

States Stop Defending Marriage Bans

By Matt Baume

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.

52 Comments February 24, 2014

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