May 21, 2013
By Jacob Combs
After a contentious day of debate and several votes, the UK House of Commons added amendments to a proposed marriage equality bill and avoided additions seen as poison pills to kill the legislation, the Guardian reports.
In February, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons by an overwhelming margin of 400 to 175. During yesterday’s debate, however, LGBT advocates were concerned that an amendment proposed by Tim Loughton, an anti-marriage equality Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), might derail the bill. Loughton’s amendment, which would have made civil partnerships available to all couples regardless of sexual orientation, rather than only same-sex couples, was voted down 375-70.
Critics of Loughton’s amendment, among them Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, said that the measure would add £4 billion to the cost of the marriage equality bill (in the form of pension payments to civil partners) and could have delayed implementation of the change for several months.
While Cameron and his supporters were ultimately successful in defeating Loughton’s proposal, they were nevertheless forced to make a dramatic last-minute request to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who was planning to abstain on the measure, to move against the amendment. Many Labour MPs had expressed support for the proposal, and in return for Miliband’s support, Cameron’s government agreed that it would begin an immediate review into whether civil partnerships should be extended to opposite-sex couples. That review, which equalities minister Maria Miller said might result in the abolition of all civil partnerships (after the passage of marriage equality), was initially to take place no more than five years after the marriage bill’s passage.
In another dramatic move, more than 100 Conservative MPs voted against Cameron by backing an amendment that would have permitted registrars to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. Another vote intended to protect the religious beliefs of any opponent of marriage equality also failed. According to Pam’s House Blend, two friendly amendments were approved: one which would protect religious officials from lawsuits and another which could pave the way for same-sex weddings in the Church of Wales.
The House of Commons will consider additional amendments today and will then hold a third reading and final vote on the bill. If it is approved, it will proceed to the House of Lords in two weeks time for further consideration.
May 20, 2013
By Matt Baume
Minnesota passes a marriage bill, bringing the total to twelve states with the freedom to marry. Can we make it thirteen? Time’s running out for Illinois to pass its marriage bill this year. And even with public support for marriage soaring, numerous states may be stuck with marriage bans for years to come.
It’s going to be a busy summer. Marriage equality goes into effect in Minnesota and Rhode Island on August First, and in Delware on July First. About 53 million people now live in states with marriage.
But work in those states isn’t done. Many of the lawmakers who stood up for equality will face challenges in elections from anti-LGBT candidates. It’s important to defend the politicians who voted in favor of the freedom to marry. Minnesotans United for All Families has announced that they’ll convert the organization into a political action committee that will work to make sure those supportive lawmakers are re-elected.
Over in Illinois, the legislative session is scheduled to end in less than two weeks. Time is quickly running out for a vote on that state’s marriage bill, which Governor Patrick Quinn has pledged to sign. Visit EQIL to learn more and to find out how you can help.
Polling in Illinois is strong, with 50% for marriage and 29% opposed. And national support continues to grow as well, with a new Gallup poll showing 53% favor marriage to 45% opposed. This is the fifth consecutive Gallup poll to show marriage equality at or above 50 percent.
We have several additional surveys this week that show growing support in more conservative states. In Michigan, it’s at 58.6 percent, an increase of 12 and a half points in just the last year. In Virginia, it’s 55 percent, a ten point increase in two years. And it’s 55 percent in Arizona, with 35 percent opposed.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that all three of these states — and twenty seven others — have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. That means that even with a majority of public support, those states are still stuck with marriage bans for the time being. Changing those state constitutions will be a slow and expensive process.
In Nevada, for example, a repeal of the state’s constitutional ban just passed an Assembly Committee and now heads to a full floor vote. It’s expected to pass, but then it’ll have to wait two years before it can advance to the next round of voting. And then it’ll be 2016 before the repeal finally makes it to the ballot.
But there are other avenues for marriage equality to win. In Nevada and Hawaii, for example, there are lawsuits challenging the state’s constitutional ban. Because they’re covered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawsuit’s on hold pending a Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8. If the court upholds AFER’s previous victory, it could dramatically accelerate the marriage equality process in Arizona across the entire country.
And we’re closer than ever to a resolution on Prop 8. The deadline for the Supreme Court to rule is the end of June. Subscribe here on YouTube and at AFER.org for breaking news alerts and to find out how you can help support the cause of equality for all.
May 20, 2013
By Scottie Thomaston
On Friday, Judge Consuelo B. Marshall, a federal district court judge for the Central District of California, heard arguments in Cooper-Harris v. USA, a military servicemember’s challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In February, the judge had denied attempts to halt the proceedings by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, the Republican-led House legal group defending the law in court, and to dismiss the case entirely, a position taken by the Justice Department, who argued that federal district court was the wrong place to hear challenges related to military benefits. Since the judge ruled the case should continue, arguments were scheduled. The case is one of the few still going on while the Supreme Court deliberates over the issue of Section 3 of DOMA’s constitutionality in United States v. Windsor. Another challenge, related to DOMA’s effects on binational couples in the immigration context, had been put on hold in April.
In the Cooper-Harris case, which was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a written opinion is expected, since the judge did not issue one from the bench after the arguments. This hearing was on motions for summary judgment on the merits of the constitutionality of DOMA and the other military-related law at issue.
Cooper-Harris is a veteran who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the VA ruled that it was acquired likely as a result of her service. If she were in an opposite-sex marriage she would be entitled to seek spousal benefits, but she is in a legal same-sex marriage and Section 3 of DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing the marriage. Another federal statute related to military benefits is also challenged in the case: it defines marriage as opposite-sex only.
The SPLC issued a statement after the arguments:
A federal court in California today heard arguments from SPLC attorneys challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Title 38 – statutes that prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from granting equal benefits to gay and lesbian veterans and their spouses.
The case, Tracey Cooper-Harris v. USA, is the only challenge to DOMA that is proceeding at the same time that the U.S. Supreme Court considers the statute’s constitutionality.
It will be the first case to decide whether married gay and lesbian veterans and their spouses should receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. The judge did not issue a ruling at today’s hearing.
“Today we asked the court to declare these laws unconstitutional so that the federal government can honor Tracey’s service and Maggie’s sacrifice by providing them the same benefits other married veterans and their spouses routinely receive,” said Caren Short, staff attorney for the SPLC. “Our nation has a proud history of honoring service members and their families for their sacrifices. All who have served honorably must be treated fairly by our government when their service is complete.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor is expected at the end of June, so it’s possible that Cooper-Harris could be decided, if only in district court, before the Supreme Court says anything about the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA.