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NOM’s Pointless Pre-Election Cash Dump

The future of Florida’s marriage ban is hanging in the balance, with a big ruling that could allow marriage to start any day now. Anti-gay groups are still spending tons of money in multiple states, but they’re not getting much out of it. And there’s an election this week could determine the future of marriage in multiple southwestern states.

A Florida court has put the brakes on several marriage lawsuits, which means we may have to wait months for the next step in the cases. Attorney General Pam Bondi had asked to skip directly to the State Supreme Court for a decision, but the Third District Court of Appeals has now denied her request, which means more delays. Meanwhile, a stay remains in effect in Florida that prevents couples from marrying. This week attorneys for gay and lesbian couples asked a US District Judge to lift the stay. We could have a decision on that request any day now.

It’s been two weeks since marriage was legalized in Arizona, and by now every county in the state has issued at least one marriage license to a gay or lesbian couple. But there’s still a large area of Arizona where LGBTs can’t marry: the Navajo Nation. Marriage equality is banned there, but that could soon change. Navajo Nation presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr. has supported a repeal of that ban in the past. He faces a vote this Tuesday, November 4th.

Opponents of equality continue to waste huge amounts of money. The state of Idaho revealed this week that Governor Butch Otter has committed an additional $10,000 to continue marriage litigation. That’s on top of $71,000 that taxpayers have had to put up so far. And the National Organization for Marriage is spending $117,000 in North Carolina to support the election effort of Thom Tillis. He was one of the main backers of the state’s marriage ban that was overturned last month. Even if Tillis wins the election, he probably can’t stop the marriages at this point, so it’s hard to say what exactly NOM is hoping to accomplish.

And mark your calendars: we have some new upcoming court dates. On November 20th, Arkansas’s Supreme Court will hear oral argument in one case, and federal court will hear argument in another. And the Fifth Circuit has set a date of January 5 for hearings in two crucial cases from Texas and Louisiana. The Louisiana case is one of the only lawsuits with a ruling that upheld a marriage ban. If the appeals court agrees with that ruling, there’s a strong likelihood the US Supreme Court will take up the case.

27 Comments November 3, 2014

LA Judge’s Marriage Ruling is Full of Mistakes

By Matt Baume

A massive victory for equality in Wisconsin and Indiana, with one of the most strongly-worded decisions yet. A judge in Louisiana has ruled against marriage equality, but there are some problems with his ruling. There are major oral arguments this week in multiple states, and more cases move closer to consideration by the US Supreme Court.

It’s no surprise that the Seventh Circuit has ruled strongly in favor of the freedom to marry in Wisconsin and Indiana. Just two weeks ago, a three-judge panel directed intense skepticism toward the attorneys defending the state bans. The court’s unanimous decision points out that preventing gay and lesbian couples from marrying is harmful to their children, and does nothing to encourage healthy heterosexual marriages. The court also ruled that tradition alone cannot justify a discriminatory law.

It’s unlikely that marriages will start any time soon in the Seventh Circuit. Indiana has requested a stay to prevent marriages while the state considers its options for a rehearing. They could ask the court to reconsider the case with a larger panel. Or they could petition the Supreme Court, a process that could take several weeks. So far, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia are the only three states fully ready for the Supreme Court to consider for review.

But that could change over the next few months. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering cases in Nevada, Idaho and Hawaii, with oral argument on Monday of this week. Once the Ninth Circuit rules, parties could petition the US Supreme Court.

District Court Judge Martin Feldman has become the first federal judge to uphold a marriage ban since the Supreme Court overturned Windsor. That’s a setback, but the ruling is so riddled with strange conclusions and outright errors that Feldman could not have written a more reversible decision if he tried. In his ruling, Judge Feldman misstates the content of the Fourteenth Amendment, and inaccurately describes standards of review. The plaintiffs have already announced their intention to appeal.

Florida officials have appealed a federal decision that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. They had previously attempted to put the litigation on hold, pending a decision from the US Supreme Court. A new survey in Florida shows support for the ban at 46% and opposition at 45%. And one of the plaintiffs in an Arizona case has passed away. His husband has amended his lawsuit against the state, requesting a death certificate that accurately reflects their California marriage.

2 Comments September 9, 2014

Federal Courts Prep for Marriage Mega-Ruling

By Matt Baume

Get ready for six upcoming rulings in marriage cases, following an intense multi-case hearing in federal court. AFER’s attorneys have asked for an immediate start to weddings in Virginia, rather than wait for an appeal. And two more wins in Florida bring the victory tally to four.

Last week the Sixth circuit heard oral argument in six separate marriage equality cases, which means that all six cases are now due for a ruling any day. There’s no way to predict how the court will rule, but the three judges raised issues involving previous lawsuits, public opinion, and how marriage laws impact children. A decision could come at any time, and might cover one or multiple cases. However the court rules, parties are likely to petition the U. S. Supreme Court for review.

At least three other states will be sending cases to the Supreme Court as well. Last week, Utah petitioned the Supreme Court to hear its case, on the grounds that states, not the federal government, should decide issues relating to marriage — even when those issues involve the federal constitution. An Oklahoma official filed a Supreme Court petition the next day, on similar grounds.

The third state approaching the Supreme Court is Virginia. An court there just upheld a ruling that marriage bans are unconstitutional, but stayed the decision pending appeal. Last week AFER attorneys argued that the court should lift that stay, since it’s causing irreparable harm to the plaintiff couples. State officials filed a petition to the Supreme Court on Friday of last week.

Florida has won two new victories for marriage equality. The first came in Broward County, where Judge Dale Cohen ruled that “To discriminate based on sexual orientation…is against all that this country holds dear.” The second came in Palm Beach, where Circuit Judge Diana Lewis issued a narrow ruling that upheld spousal rights following a death. Last last week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked state courts to stop ruling on marriage equality until the U. S. Supreme Court has a chance to weigh in.

There’s been some action in western states this week. Wisconsin organizers have formed a new group called Wisconsin Unites for Marriage. Their goal is public education while also persuading Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen to drop his defense of the state’s marriage ban. A federal judge ruled against Wisconsin’s law in June, and oral argument in an appeal is scheduled for August 26th, along with a hearing on an Indiana case.

39 Comments August 11, 2014

Surprisingly Strong Colorado Victories

By Matt Baume

This week I’m back in California, where we just celebrated one year of marriage equality. It was in late June that the AFER’s case to overturn Prop 8 finally concluded and equality was restored. Now, we’re awaiting a ruling in AFER’s Virginia case. We’ve already won at the district court level, and now the Fourth Circuit could rule on an appeal any day.

Also this week, a Colorado judge will allow marriages to continue, even though the state’s marriage ban is still on the books. A ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court means marriage is safe in Pennsylvania. We have a new case in Idaho, briefs in multiple states, and a new survey in Louisiana.

We have two huge rulings in Colorado this week. The first is a state court ruling that Colorado’s marriage ban violates the U. S. Constitution. The second is a ruling that Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall can continue to issue marriage licenses, even though the ban hasn’t yet been overturned.

Boulder has been issuing licenses for about a week. And following the ruling that they can continue, they’ve been joined by Denver and Pueblo County. Hundreds of couples have so far been married in Colorado. Attorney General John Suthers has promised to appeal the ruling to try to stop the marriages. But Governor John Hickenlooper has asked him not to, saying that the licenses put Colorado on “the right side of history.”

Marriage equality won another victory in Pennsylvania last week, this time from the U. S. Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito rejected an attempt by a local clerk to stop the marriages.

Wisconsin and Indiana are both on the fast track to a marriage decision. Last week the 7th Circuit set and expedited schedule that should have both states fully briefed by mid-August.

The opening brief in Indiana is due on Tuesday of this week. And a brief in a Texas case is due on Wednesday. And we’re expecting a ruling any day now in a case from Key West, Florida. At a hearing last week, anti-gay lawyers claimed that marriage equality has “negative consequences” but couldn’t actually name any.

There’s a new lawsuit in Idaho. A lesbian veteran has sued the state for the right to be buried next to her spouse. And a new survey in Louisiana shows that support for marriage equality is still low, at 32%, but steadily rising year after year.

All in all, it’s been an intensely busy week for marriage equality victories — with more likely to come.

210 Comments July 15, 2014

More Marriage Equality Wins in Western States

By Matt Baume

This week I’m in Washington DC, where in one year we’re all but guaranteed to have a ruling on the freedom to marry. We also have major milestones to report this week in Utah and Indiana.

Marriage equality got a huge victory last week, with an appeals court upholding a ruling that Utah’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. It was last December that a lower court first ruled against Utah’s ban, and hundreds of couples were able to wed during a brief window.

Now the case goes to the U. S. Supreme Court, which may take the case, or decline to hear it, this fall. If they hear the case, we’ll likely have a ruling in June of 2015. If they don’t, marriage could start back up again in Utah before the end of this year.

But in the mean time, some clerks in Colorado have started issuing marriage licenses now. Colorado is in the same circuit as Utah, and the clerks have explained that last week’s ruling requires them to set aside Colorado’s marriage ban.

There’s also been a major ruling in Indiana. Once again, a federal court has found a marriage equality ban to violate the U. S. Constitution. This time, the court did not delay the issuing of marriage licenses, and couples were able to begin marrying in Indiana for a few days.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit halted the marriages while the state appeals the lower court’s ruling. As in Utah, this case is on track to the U. S. Supreme Court, although it may not reach the court in time for its next upcoming session.

The next states to watch are Oklahoma and Virginia. Both cases could get a ruling any day now. They would then join Utah in petitioning the Supreme Court. We also have big news in Louisiana: Judge Martin Feldman has expended the scope of a narrow marriage case to cover marriage equality in general. We can expect a major ruling in Louisiana in the next few months.

Also last week, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay married four couples in his office. Missouri’s marriage ban is still on the books, so it’s unclear whether these marriage licenses are valid. Missouri has had a pending marriage case for months, and just this past week gained a second.

Also last week, the Justice Department issued a report calling for the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine has become the fourth Republican Senator to endorse marriage equality.

19 Comments July 1, 2014

Marriages on Hold in Wisconsin

By Matt Baume

Starting this week, Marriage News Watch is getting out of the office and traveling around the country. We’ll be visiting various states to see what’s happening with marriage equality. This week, we’re in Nevada, and we also have news from Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina and more.

So what’s happening with marriage in Nevada? A judge ruled against equality back in 2012. That was a setback, but a lot has changed since then. A separate case established a higher standard of review in cases involving LGBT discrimination, so there’s a good chance that ruling could be overturned on appeal.

The situation in Wisconsin is still changing by the day. As of Monday, some clerks are issuing licenses and others aren’t. We should get clarification in the next few days on whether those licenses can continue. Meanwhile, the state is pressing ahead with its appeal.

There’s a new lawsuit in Michigan. Two men are suing the state for recognition after they married in New York. One of the men has brain cancer, so they urgently need recognition for their relationship.

There’s also a new lawsuit in Alabama. This is the third suit in that state. And a second lawsuit was just filed in North Dakota.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, the state has filed a response to a marriage lawsuit there. The United Church of Christ sued the state to overturn the marriage ban. Now the state has requested a halt in the proceedings, pending a ruling from the Fourth Circuit in AFER’s Virginia case. A West Virginia case has been similarly halted while we await that Virginia decision, which could come any day.

A new study from the Williams Institute shows that marriage equality would mean $62 million for the economy of Arizona. And in Indiana, organizers have launched a new public outreach campaign to promote the freedom to marry called Hoosiers United for Marriage.

192 Comments June 17, 2014

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