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Marriage Equality Comes to Montana

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

MontanaA federal judge struck down the ban on marriage equality in Montana yesterday.

The Washington Blade reports:

In an 18-page decision, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, struck down the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage on the basis of an earlier decision in favor of marriage equality by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Montana. “No family wants to deprive its precious children of the chance to marry the loves of their lives,” Morris writes. “Montana no longer can deprive Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves.” Applying heightened scrutiny, or a greater assumption a law is unconstitutional, to Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage, Morris writes that state officials defending the marriage ban in court failed under that standard “to justify the discrimination engendered by the Montana laws that ban same-sex marriage.

No stay was issued on the ruling, so same-sex couples immediately started seeking marriage licenses.

The Charlotte Observer reports:

Gay couples were expected to line up for marriage licenses Thursday at county courthouses across Montana after a federal judge tossed out the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. At least two counties — Missoula and Park — started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Wednesday, while court clerks elsewhere geared up to do so Thursday.

Among the first Montana couples to get their licenses on Wednesday were Amy Wagner, 56, and Karen Langebeck, 48, of Livingston, who have been together for 22 years. After hearing about the ruling at 2 p.m. MST, they got on the road to get their license. “Being able to get married and introduce Karen as my wife — that’s a big deal. Now I have a way to describe this relationship that everybody understands,” Wagner said.

Friend of the blog Matt Baume has compiled some of the best quotes from the decision, including:

Antigay attorneys love to rely on the Baker case, in which a 1972 dismissal from the U.S. Supreme Court stated that marriage equality wasn’t a federal issue. That was 42 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. Nevertheless, state attorneys keep bringing it up to try to persuade courts that they shouldn’t weigh in; and courts keep shooting that argument down. “Baker no longer precludes consideration of challenges to the constitutionality of laws that prohibit same-sex marriage,” Judge Morris wrote.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, is thrilled with the decision.

Joe.My.God reports:

“Today’s decision ensures we are closer to fulfilling our promise of freedom, dignity, and equality for all Montanans. It is a day to celebrate our progress, while recognizing the qualities that bind us as Montanans: a desire to make a good life for ourselves and our families, while providing greater opportunities to the next generation. I have instructed my administration to quickly take all appropriate steps to ensure that we are recognizing and affording the same rights and responsibilities to legally married same-sex couples that all married Montanans have long enjoyed.”

But the Montana Family Foundation is not.

Joe.My.God reports:

“I am heartbroken for the people of Montana who have had the redefinition of marriage forced on them by an out-of-control federal judiciary. I am also grieved for the children of same-sex couples who have no chance of growing up with a mom and a dad. While we mourn the direction of a misguided judiciary, we’re encouraged by the fact that natural marriage was enshrined in 31 state Constitutions, and a recent Pew poll showed that support for same-sex marriage has dropped by 5% in the past 3 months. While the courts believe same-sex marriage is a settled issue, it’s anything but settled in the hearts and minds of the people. While we’re disappointed in the decision, we will not despair, we will not throw in the towel and we will not give up. As Cicero once said, ‘Time obliterates the fictions of opinion and confirms the decisions of nature.'”

Republican Atty. Gen. Tim Fox has already vowed to appeal the ruling.

Joe.My.God reports:

“It is the attorney general’s sworn duty to uphold and defend Montana’s constitution until such time as there is no further review or no appeal can be made in a court of law. Fulfilling that duty, the state of Montana will appeal this ruling in light of the fact that there are conflicting federal court decisions and no final word from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

All we can say is “good luck with that.”

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Montana.

Michigan Domestic Partnership Ban Overturned

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

MichiganA federal judge has finally officially overturned Michigan’s ban on getting benefits for couples in domestic partnerships.

Think Progress reports:

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the state’s law banning the same-sex partners of public employees from receiving benefits is unconstitutional. The law in question was passed just back in 2011. It specifically infringed on municipalities that were already providing benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city employees. Five couples whose benefits were cut by the law’s passage filed the complaint that led to this decision. Judge David Lawson, a Clinton appointee, pointed out that the marriage rulings are not relevant in this case because “this is case is not about marriage.” Rather, he wrote, it has to do with whether a state “may adopt a narrow definition of family, and pass laws that penalize those unions and households that do not conform.” Only public employees with same-sex partners are impacted by the law, he explained, and it imposes a significant financial burden on them by cutting their benefits.

It’s a small but symbolic victory for the LGBT community in a state that was just burned by the anti-marriage equality decision at the 6th Circuit. And it has huge ramifications for the couples involved.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Michigan.

Mississippi Marriage Equality Hearing Held

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Mississippi MapA federal judge in Mississippi heard a marriage equality case yesterday.

WAPT reports:

One of the couples involved in the lawsuit, Carla Webb and Joce Pritchett, married in Maine last year and are raising their children in Jackson. They want legal recognition and protection for their family… The lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 20 by Webb and Pritchett; Rebecca Bickett and her longtime partner, Andrea Sanders, who were denied a Mississippi marriage license earlier this year; and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, alleges that Mississippi violates constitutional rights of gays and lesbians and denies same-sex couples the “rights, benefits and duties that automatically come with marriage.” The attorney general and governor said Mississippi’s marriage laws don’t discriminate.

Apparently, the hearing did not go well for the state.

Joe.My.God reports:

Via the Clarion-Ledger: New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan presented a rapid-fire case for her clients, which include two Mississippi same-sex couples with children: Carla Webb and Joce Pritchett; and Rebecca Bickett and Andrea Sanders. At times excusing herself for speaking too quickly, Kaplan rattled off her reasons why she believes the state’s gay-marriage ban violates the constitution and her clients’ rights and padded her arguments with documented case law. Kaplan’s style was sharply contrasted by that of lead counsel for the state, Justin Matheny, who at times seemed to stumble through his arguments and admitted an unfamiliarity with many of the issues at hand. “When I found out I would be the one to come to court and argue this case, I had to do some research,” Matheny said near the opening of his remarks, eliciting a chuckle or two from the packed courtroom.

Judge: “What is the state’s rational basis that same-sex couples can’t marry and its prohibition of same sex couples from adopting children when all a child wants is to be loved, and they don’t care by whom?” Matheny: “Responsible procreation.” Judge: “You allow people in prison to be married, and there are no more conjugal visits. Old people can marry and they can’t bear children.” Yeah, we’ve got this one.

Although the judge expedited the hearing in the case, he gave no indication how soon he would rule.

The Clarion Ledger reports:

After hearing both sides, Reeves told the court he would take the matter under advisement and rule as soon as possible, but he gave no indication about how soon that would be. If he grants the injunction without a stay, gay marriage in Mississippi immediately would be legal — at least temporarily. If Reeves also issues a stay, it would cancel out the injunction for a period of time to be determined in the court order. Reeves could set a specific time line for the stay, like three days, or could pin its expiration on the outcome of another court decision, like the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling on the pending Texas and Louisiana same-sex marriage ban cases.

So now, once again, we wait.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Mississippi.

Federal Judge Strikes Down South Carolina Marriage Equality Ban

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

South Carolina MapOK, it’s official – a Federal Judge in South Carolina just struck down the state’s ban on marriage equality.

The Washington Blade reports:

In a 26-page decision issued on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel, an Obama appointee, determines the South Carolina’s ban on gay nuptials violates same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Gergel bases his decision on an earlier ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals against the marriage ban in Virginia, which lies in the same judicial circuit as South Carolina. “While a party is certainly free to argue against precedent, even very recent precedent, the Fourth Circuit has exhaustively addressed the issues raised by Defendants and firmly and unambiguously recognized a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry and the power of the federal courts to address and vindicate that right,” Gergel writes.

The ruling has been stayed until November 20th.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in South Carolina.

Supreme Court Grants 24 Hour Stay in Kansas Marriage Equality Case

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Justice Sonia SotomayorSame-sex couples in Kansas will have to wait little bit longer before they can get married, after Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a short stay in the marriage equality case.

MSNBC reports:

With just over 24 hours to go until a ruling striking down Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban was due to take effect, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday granted an emergency request for a stay from the state’s Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The stay might not last long; Sotomayor, the justice assigned to the 10th Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Kansas,) granted the request “pending receipt of a response, due on or before Tuesday, November 11, 2014, by 5 p.m. ET.” “She’s granted what sounds like a 24-hour stay,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, to msnbc. “It’s real hard to say what’s going to happen next.”

Kansas lawyers cited the 6th Circuit ruling five times in their stay application, according to the Associated Press, in an attempt to convince the justices that the issue was not yet settled nationally and should be put on hold until the high court rules. That logic has worked in the past, with the Supreme Court granting stays in similar cases out of Utah and Virginia.

We’re not sure what wonderful new arguments the state is going to come up with to try to preserve its ban. But ultimately, it may make little difference, as weddings could not have began today anyway since clerks’ offices are closed for Veterans Day.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

Judge Denies Westboro Intervention in Kansas Marriage Equality Case, Tenth Circuit Denies Stay

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

KansasWe have a couple new developments in the Kansas marriage equality case. First off, A judge basically told the Westboro Baptist Church to piss off in the request to intervene in the case.

The Washington Blade reports:

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, an Obama appointee who on Election Day ruled against the Kansas ban on same-sex marriage, determined in a seven-page decision state officials defending Kansas law adequately represent Westboro’s interests. “WBC has not identified any differences between the defendant’s ultimate objective in the litigation and its own,” Crabtree writes. “Nor can the Court identify any–both seek to uphold Kansas’ constitutional and statutory prohibitions against same-sex marriage. A shared ultimate objective between an existing party and an applicant for intervention triggers a presumption of adequate representation.”

And on the same day, the 10th circuit denied the state’s request for a stay.

Joe.My.God reports:

The district court granted preliminary injunctive relief to plaintiffs on November 4, enjoining defendants from enforcing or applying Kansas constitutional and statutory provisions that prohibit issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The district court then stayed its injunctive order until 5:00 p.m. on November 11. Defendants immediately appealed the preliminary injunction ruling and also filed an emergency motion pursuant to 10th Cir. R. 8.1, asking this court to stay the district court’s injunctive order pending their appeal of the ruling. We conclude that defendants have failed to make the showings necessary to obtain a stay, and we deny the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal. We note that the district court’s temporary stay of its own preliminary injunction order remains in effect until 5:00 p.m. CST on November 11, 2014.

Noew the state has asked the US Supreme Court to step in.

Pink News reports:

The state of Kansas has asked the Supreme Court to halt same-sex weddings, which are due to begin statewide on Tuesday. Weddings are set to begin next Tuesday, after the Attorney General Derek Schmidt had his desperate attempt to stop them rejected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Mr Schmidt has now taken his case even further – asking the Supreme Court to halt the marriages. He said: “Because the federal District Court’s injunction will effectively disable a provision in the Kansas Constitution, I believe I have a duty to exhaust all of the state’s options for appeal.

If recent history is any guide, he’ll get a swift respnse from the Court, and it will be a “no”. In that case, the current stay will expire on Tuesday, November 11, and same-sex couples will be free to marry across the state.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Marriage Equality Ban

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

KansasLost amidst all the election news – a Federal Judge in Kansas struck down the marriage equality ban there, with weddings to commence on November 11th.

The Washington Blade reports:

In a 38-page decision, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, an Obama appointee, issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement on Kansas law prohibiting of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The injunction is warranted, Crabtree writes, because of legal precedent and because state officials defending the law haven’t made a sufficient case they would prevail in court. “Because Kansas’ constitution and statutes indeed do what Kitchen forbids, the Court concludes that Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution,” Crabtree writes. “Accordingly, the Court grants plaintiffs’ request for preliminary relief and enters the injunction described at the end of this Order.”

Of course, there’s that state Supreme Court hearing today, so we’ll see how that plays into things.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

Almost Everything You’ve Been Told About The Idaho Wedding Chapel Story Is A Lie

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

IdahoTwo ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, own a for-profit wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but say they cannot marry same-sex couples because of their faith. Now that same-sex couples can legally marry in Idaho, the Knapps face a possible issue.

Earlier this year, as you can see in this video, Donald Knapp (photo, above,) said he’d close the chapel rather than violate his faith. At the center of the controversy is their small town’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Bottom line, depending on how they’ve licensed their business, they likely would be exempt from the ordinance, but that hasn’t stopped the maniacal anti-gay religious right who have hitched their wagons to the Hitching Post’s story and are profiting from it — because that’s just what they do.

Authored By David Badash – See the Full Story at The New Civil Rights Movement

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Idaho.

Federal Judge in Puerto Rico Upholds Marriage Equality Ban

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Puerto RicoA second Federal Judge has upheld a marriage equality ban (the first was in Louisiana).

LGBTQ Nation reports:

U.S. District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez, cited Baker v. Nelson, a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld Minnesota’s ban on same-sex marriage, and said that allowing same-sex marriage raises the question of a constitutional right to polygamous and incestuous marriages. The case, Conde-Vidal v. Garcia-Padilla, was filed in March by Lambda Legal on behalf of five gay and lesbian couples and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an organization that represents LGBT Puerto Ricans and their families.

Think Progress points out that the decision reads like a National Organization for Marriage press release:

Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution . . . inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2718 (Alito, J., dissenting). Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage. Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries.

Lambda Legal plans to appeal:

“The court’s ruling directly conflicts with the wave of recent decisions finding these marriage bans unconstitutional and perpetuates the discrimination and harm done to same-sex Puerto Rican couples and their families,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “It defies the unmistakable import of the Windsor decision and flies in the face of the blizzard of rulings of the last year, the reasoned rulings of the Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, and the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to let stand the rulings striking down five bans similar to Puerto Rico’s. One struggles to understand how this judge came to a different conclusion. We will, of course, appeal this ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals,” Gonzalez-Pagan said. “All families in Puerto Rico need the protections of marriage.”

The Judge was apparently a democratic appointee.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources.

Marriage Equality Comes to Arizona

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Arizona mapAnother day, another marriage equality state. This time it’s Arizona, where a Federal judge just struck down the states ban with no stay.

Towleroad.com reports:

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick (a George H.W. Bush appointee) has struck down Arizona’s ban on gay marriage, declaring it “unconstitutional by virtue of the fact that they deny same-sex couples the equal protection of the law.”

Adds Sedwick: “The court has considered whether to stay this decision to allow defendants to appeal. It is clear, however, that an appeal to the Ninth Circuit would be futile. It is also clear–based on the Supreme Court’s denial of petitions for writs of certiorari filed inconnection with several circuit court decisions which held that same-sex marriage must be recognized in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin –that the High Court will turn a deaf ear on any request for relief from the Ninth Circuit’s decision. It is further ordered that defendants are hereby ordered to permanently cease enforcement of those provisions of Arizona law declared unconstitutional by this order. Finally, this court declines to stay the effect of this order.”

These new states are coming online so quickly it’s hard to keep up – amazing!

Find more articles and gay wedding resource in Arizona.