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Republican Leader Joins Marriage Equality Movement

By Matt Baume

A Republican icon comes out in support of marriage equality. We’ve had a sting of major marriage wins in the last few months, but now anti-gay groups will keep trying to tear those victories down in a series of hearings. Support for marriage equality is picking up in conservative states, a terminally ill woman in Indiana is one step closer to getting her marriage recognized, and we have more lawsuits on the horizon in the south.

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Republican icon in Wyoming. And now he’s also one of the state’s leading advocates for the freedom to marry. In a new ad, Simpson explains his support for marriage equality: “whether you’re gay or lesbian or straight, if you love someone and you want to marry them, marry them.”

There’s pending litigation in Wisconsin state court, but legislative attempts to pass marriage equality bills have failed in the last few sessions. Public support for marriage in Wyoming is surprisingly strong, at 57% support to 32% opposed.

Utah had a huge win for equality last December, but now that victory’s getting put to the test. Last week lawyers for both sides were grilled by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments seemed to go well. Next, we’ll have another round of arguments on Thursday of this week, this time covering a recent victory in Oklahoma. We could get a ruling on both cases at any time in the next few weeks. And then it’s on to the US Supreme Court.

But while we wait for a ruling in those cases, yet another federal Judge has ruled against a state marriage ban. This time it was Indiana, and the ruling only applies to one couple: Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who were married in Massachusetts, and need recognition in their home state due to Quasney’s ovarian cancer.

Opposition to marriage equality in Louisiana is dropping faster than support is climbing, but support hasn’t reached a majority yet. It’s at 42%, with opposition dropping to 53%. At this rate it could still be several years before the state has majority support.

Polling numbers are much closer in North Carolina, with support at 40% to 53%. There’s also a new lawsuit in that state. Three couples are suing North Carolina in federal court. That case joins a lawsuit filed in 2012 by six other couples.

And keep an eye on Georgia. We may see a lawsuit there as well. Georgia’s one of the last states left with no marriage litigation, but this week organizers hinted that they’ll have a big announcement soon.

Those are the headlines. Subscribe on Youtube to stay up to dat on all these stories. For the American Foundation for Equal Rights, I’m Matt Baume. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next week.

40 Comments April 14, 2014

Major Marriage Equality Court Dates Over the Next Few Weeks

By Matt Baume

Anti-gay groups are getting desperate, with one candidate for governor comparing marriage equality to murder. An Alabama scheme to slip a marriage ban into the US Constitution is moving forward but is pretty much guaranteed to fail. A judge in Ohio rules that marriage equality isn’t only for dead people anymore. Plus, a major marriage victory in Utah gets put to the test on appeal this Thursday. We’ll have all the details.

We’re just one month away from the hearing in AFER’s Virginia case, and support for marriage equality in the state is steadily on the rise. A new Quinnipiac poll shows support at 50 to 42 percent, a complete reversal from the same poll two years ago. Last week we got a glimpse into the arguments that our opponents will use in court, with a new brief from attorney David B. Oakley. He claims that marriage equality will open the door to marrying relatives.

And that’s not even the most outlandish claim that our opponents made last week. Lorraine Mae Rafferty, a candidate for governor in Oregon, says that she opposes the freedom to marry because it is “just the same as murder.”

Of course, anyone can make these kinds of crazy statements, but they’ll have a much harder time proving them where it really matters, in court. The next big legal hurdle for marriage equality is coming this Thursday, in Utah. A panel of three judges will hear arguments in the appeal of the marriage equality victory from a few months ago. And we’ll have another hearing next week, in the Oklahoma case.

Ohio got a major marriage victory last week, with a Judge announcing that he’ll order the state to recognize all benefits associated with out-of-state licenses. Previously, the state was only required to recognize marriages for the purpose of death certificates.

In Alabama, the House of Representatives has passed a resolution in support of amending the US Constitution to ban marriage equality. That has approximately zero chance of actually happening, of course. Anti-gay activists tried pushing a federal ban about a decade ago, and couldn’t make it happen even after President Bush endorsed it. Passing this resolution now is just a symbolic anti-gay gesture, and a waste of everyone’s time.

There’s two new lawsuits in Florida. Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones have been together 11 years, and are suing the state for the right to marry. Filing a separate suit are Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ of Chipley, Florida. These are the third and fourth marriage lawsuits in that state.

And we may see a new lawsuit soon in Nebraska. Lesbian couple Margie and Bonnie Nichols have filed for divorce in the state, but a District Court judge ruled that the state couldn’t dissolve a marriage that it doesn’t recognize. The case is now moving to the state Supreme Court, but ultimately it could require additional litigation to overturn the state’s ban.

And finally this week, a new study shows that marriage equality would bring fifty million dollars to the economy of Colorado. The state’s currently in the midst of a public education campaign and there are two separate lawsuits working their way through the courts there. Public support is at 56 to 36 percent.

13 Comments April 7, 2014

Michigan Won’t Recognize its own Marriage Licenses

By Matt Baume

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has good news and bad news marriage in Michigan. One Missouri lawmaker is taking a stand for equality. We have more good news from national polling. And five couples in Mississippi requested marriage licenses last week. What happened next will probably not surprise you.

Things are getting complicated in Michigan. In recent weeks, a federal court overturned the state’s marriage ban, then counties issued licenses to 323 couples until the Sixth Circuit stopped them by impsing a stay. Attorney General Bill Schuette is appealing the ruling.

Governor Snyder confirmed last week that “legal marriages took place,” but added that for now “we won’t recognize the benefits of those marriages.” His wording was important, because it suggested that other states and the federal government could recognize them. And sure enough, US Attorney General Eric Holder has stepped in to confirm federal recognition of those marriages.

That still leaves couples with no access to state marriage benefits. It’s likely some will sue to ensure their licenses are recognized by Michigan and across state lines. Meanwhile, the Sixth Circuit has scheduled briefs in the case for May and June, but the plaintiffs have asked for an expedited schedule.

Missouri state Representative Mike Colona is pursuing marriage equality through the legislature. He introduced a bill last week that would repeal the state’s marriage ban.

And a lawsuit may be coming soon in Mississippi. Five couples applied for marriage licenses there last week. Their applications were accepted only to be later denied. And an equality campaign in Colorado is picking up steam, with a slew of new endorsements from state leaders.

And finally this week, a new national survey continues to show a steady climb in national support for the freedom to marry. The new data show 55 percent support to 40 percent opposed. This is the forty second major survey to show support over fifty percent.

2 Comments March 31, 2014

Federal Judge Rejects Anti-Gay Junk Science

By Matt Baume

Michigan’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. Oklahoma couples fight back in court against an anti-gay group making misleading claims about children. A pro-equality ruling is delayed, pending appeal. But another is put in place as of now. We have some important hearings coming up very soon. And pro-equality Republicans hang on to their seats in a tight election.

Michigan’s marriage ban violates the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. It’s the latest in a string of legla victories, following Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma and more. Judge Bernard Friedman also had strong words for anti-gay researcher Mark Regnerus, who claimed to have data showing that marriage equality harms kids. Regnerus was “entirely unbelievable,” Friedman wrote, “and not worthy of serious consideration.” It’s unclear whether marriages can start during the appeals process.

The past few months have seen numerous high-profile victories from Utah to Oklahoma to Virginia and many others. In all of those states, litigation and growing public support are chipping away at marriage bans. Now our adversaries are trying to delay our inevitable final win, but they’re having limited success.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. In response, the anti-gay ADF filed a brief claiming that marriage equality harms children. Our opponents tried to make this argument back in the Prop 8 trial, but they couldn’t cite any evidence. And now in Oklahoma, the plaintiff couples have filed a new brief that completely refutes the ADF’s claims.

And that’s just the start of the brand new filings in the last few days. In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear asked a district court to delay implementation of a ruling that the state must recognize out-of-state licenses. The court granted his request, which means couples will have to wait for the appeals process to run its course before they can be recognized.

Tennessee made a similar request, but last week that one was denied. As a result, the state must now recognize out-of-state marriages, but only for the three plaintiff couples in the case.

In Arkansas, both sides have requested summary judgement in a suit filed in state court. They’ll have a hearing to settle that issue on April 17. And in Wisconsin, state lawyers have asked the court to dismiss a federal suit over the state’s marriage ban. They claim that the law doesn’t nullify out-of-state licenses, it just ignores that they exist, and that somehow that’s different.

We have a date for oral argument in AFER’s Virginia case. It’s Tuesday, May 13, at 9:30am, at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

And two states are launching new marriage campaigns. Last week saw the unveiling of Utah Unites for Equality and Wyoming Unites for Equality.

And finally this week, three pro-equality Republicans were up for re-election in Illinois. There were concerns that their support for marriage equality could hurt them, but two won by a wide margin and a third is in a narrow lead.

9 Comments March 24, 2014

More Marriage Wins Than Ever This Week

By Matt Baume

Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional, with a strongly-worded victory in AFER’s case. And that’s just the start of multiple marriage wins from coast to coast this week. We have good news coming out of Kentucky, Indiana, and Nevada, plus several new lawsuits, hearings, and favorable polls.

This was a huge week for marriage equality, starting with AFER’s powerful win in Virginia. The federal district court has ruled that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. Just as in California, the ban violates the US Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. Marriages can’t start yet, pending appeal. But the case is on a very fast track, so it’s likely to get its next hearing quite soon.

We also got a big ein in Kentucky, where a judge ruled that the state must recognize out-of-state marriage licenses. And on Friday, the attorney representing the couples in that case filed a second lawsuit, this time to force the state to start issuing licenses of its own. Support for marriage equality is steadily growing in Kentucky.

Another major victory this week: Indiana’s proposed marriage ban will not go to voters until 2016 at the earliest. Support for the bill has rapidly dwindled, and may evaporate altogether in the next two years.

We also had good news in Nevada. The governor and attorney general have announced that they will no longer defend the state’s marriage ban. In short, they’ve come to the conclusion that there is no way to defend the ban. The case is now on a fast track toward resolution in the Ninth Circuit. Meanwhile, state organizers this week announced a Freedom Nevada campaign to push a ballot measure to legalize marriage.

We had a hearing this week in a Texas lawsuit, and another lawsuit is coming soon in Louisiana.

Couples filed new lawsuits this week in Missouri, Alabama and in Ohio. Ohio organizers are also collecting signatures to overturn the state’s marriage ban, and this week announced that they’ve collected more than enough. And a similar campaign in Oregon just announced that they’ve collected 120% of the required signatures to challenge Oregon’s marriage ban at the ballot.

24 Comments February 18, 2014

Another US Supreme Court Decision on Marriage

Matt Baume

We have the latest from Utah, where the state has committed to spending millions of dollars to undo marriage equality. An apology from a Florida governor who has now changed his mind on banning the freedom to marry. Plus, new promises of yet another federal lawsuit in a conservative state.

There are several new developments in the Utah case this week. After a federal judge legalized marriage equality in Utah last month, the state has now hired Idaho attorney Monte Stewart to represent them on appeal. Republican lawmakers have pledged to spend up to two million dollars of taxpayer funds to try to overturn the freedom to marry, even though the case has already passed what should be its most expensive hurdles. For comparison, the entire cost of defending DOMA from start to finish was two point three million dollars.

Also last week, the state requested an emergency stay from the US Supreme Court. If granted, the stay would halt marriage equality during the appeals process. We could have a decision from the court on the stay any day now.

In the mean time, the appeal of the ruling is moving ahead with a very rapid schedule. The opening brief is due on January 27th, a response brief is due February 18, then a reply on February 25th, and then oral arguments will follow that. We could easily have a ruling from the 10th circuit by this summer. That could potentially mean the case could go to the US Supreme Court for the session starting at the end of this year.

Turning to the other states, the Michigan Department of State has confirmed that it will not allow gay couples who marry out of state to change their names on their Michigan driver’s licenses. Former Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist has apologized for his past support for a ban on marriage and civil unions.

Alaska attorney Caitlin Shortell has revealed plans to file a federal lawsuit in that state later this month. And officials in Maine have announced that in the first year of marriage equality, over 1,500 gay and lesbian couples got married in the state. That’s sixteen percent of all Maine marriages.

8 Comments January 6, 2014

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