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Gay rights and marriage equality news from Tennessee


Sixth Circuit to Hear Six Marriage Equality Cases From Four States Today

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a series of marriage equality cases today from the jurisdiction’s four constituent states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. It is an unprecedented coming together of marriage equality litigation that has the potential to change the destiny of marriage in the federal courts for several reasons:

First, these cases cover the entire Sixth Circuit and any decision could affect all of them directly, even if a decision is stayed pending appeal to the Supreme Court. We have seen this happen in the Fourth Circuit, where the appellate court overturns a ban on marriage equality and other states in the circuit, North Carolina and West Virginia, either stop defending their own bans or take other pro-equality actions because they see the writing on the wall even though the decision is stayed pending appeal.

Second, the three-judge panel reflects the right-of-center tilt of the circuit, consisting of a Clinton appointee and two George W. Bush appointees, one of whom has made his fiercely conservative views public.

And, third, as the third federal appeals court to hear a post-Windsor marriage case — after the Tenth (the Utah case) and the Fourth (the Virginia case), but before the Seventh (on August 26), the Ninth (on September 8), and at some point, the Fifth — the Sixth Circuit is being watched to determine if a pattern is emerging among the circuits or if there will be a split among the panels.

Authored By Ari Ezra Waldman – See the Full Story at Towleroad.com

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Marriage Equality USA Conference Call Tonight at 6 PM Pacific

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

MEUSA Conference CallDon’t forget – our national COMMUNITY CALL to discuss today’s events surrounding the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals marriage equality cases is tonight, Wednesday August 6th! We and our partners, the Fairness Campaign, ACLU-KY and Equality Michigan look forward to talking with you this evening.

TIME OF CALL: 6pm PT / 7pm MT / 8pm CT / 9pm ET

Sign up for tonight’s call now!

Today, 6 August 2014, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear oral arguments in marriage equality cases Bourke v. Beshear from Kentucky, DeBoer v. Snyder from Michigan, Obergefell v. Himes and Henry v. Himes from Ohio, and Tanco v. Haslam from Tennessee. The hearing will begin at 1:00pm EDT.

You are invited to our Community Call to discuss what happened in the courtroom, to hear community reaction, and to ask questions about where we go from here. This call is open to all supporters of marriage equality and allies — feel free to share this info!

Participants on the call will include: John Lewis, Marriage Equality USA’s Legal and Public Policy Director; Kathleen Perrin, nationally recognized legal expert; and, Regina (Gina) Calcagno, Attorney and Coalition Manager with Michigan for Marriage. Ms. Calcagno will be in the courtroom for the hearing. The call will be moderated by MEUSA’s Social Media Manager and Court Watcher, Thom Watson.

To receive the call in information, sign up at http://bit.ly/1rTHtFn. All attendees will receive the information by email today.

Could Marriage Equality Hit a Bump at the Sixth Circuit?

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Gay WeddingMarriage equality has had a very good run in the federal courts ever since the Supreme Court declared the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in 2013. Every single federal court to consider the question has sided with marriage equality, although two federal appellate judges have dissented from this consensus view in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and the Tenth Circuits.

Nevertheless, equality is likely to face more skeptical judges as more of these cases advance to the court of appeals level. As ThinkProgress warned last June, “appointments to federal circuit courts have historically been much more politically charged than appointments to the lower-ranking district courts, so litigants are far more likely to encounter a judge who was selected for their loyalty to a particular ideology.” We also predicted that the Sixth Circuit, with a strong Republican majority and a history of partisan acrimony, was especially likely to treat a marriage equality case with skepticism…

To the extent that there is a wild card on the panel, it is Judge Jeffrey Sutton. Prior to becoming a judge, Sutton was a brilliant — and very conservative — litigator who devoted much of his career to cases seeking to expand the role of the states at the federal government’s expense. He also helped lead the conservative Federalist Society’s Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group. Sutton was widely expected to be a reliable conservative vote when he joined the bench, and for most of his time as a judge, he has been.

Authored By Ian Millhiser – See the Full Story at Think Progress

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Tennessee Marriage Equality Ruling Coming Soon

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Tennessee Marriage Equality DayAfter the Tennessee marriage equality hearing, the judge said he would issue a ruling soon.

Pink News reports:

After under an hour’s hearing in a same-sex divorce case, a judge announced on Friday that he would issue a written opinion. The hearing at Roane County Circuit Court lasted 45 minutes in the case of Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman, who married in Iowa in 2010, and filed for divorce in Tennessee in 2011. Judge Russell Simmons Jr, who will retire at the end of August, has been asked to weigh in on the case.

No word on exactly when the ruling will be issued.

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Marriage Equality Monday: August Sixth Hearings for Cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Gay WeddingThe Sixth circuit is getting set for a Marriage Equality Monday – with hearings on marriage equality cases from four states.

The Washington Blade reports:

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the single day to hear arguments in the five marriage equality cases pending before the court, setting up a historic day for each of the four states in the circuit. In four separate notices on Monday, the Sixth Circuit, which is located in Cincinnati, announced that arguments for the cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee will take place on August 6 at 1 pm. James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT project, said his organization welcomes the developments for each of the cases.

Amazing – more and more of these cases are moving up to the appellate courts – which will be the next to issue a ruling?

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USA, Tennessee: Wedding Venue Changes Mind Again, Will Allow Same Sex Weddings

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Tennessee mapA Tennessee wedding venue that first said they would allow a same sex wedding, then decided not to, has changed its mind again.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Mint Springs Farm in Nolensville, Tenn., rose to national attention when it told Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas that state law prohibiting same-sex marriage prevented them from hosting commitment ceremonious for same-sex couples. “Our hands are tied in this situation,” the owner told the couple in an email. The couple called the owner’s response “a horrible excuse” for not wanting to hold a same-sex ceremony, and said citing a state law was both erroneous and “baffling.” Now, after consulting with the Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide advocacy organization, Mint Springs Farm announced Tuesday it was changing its policy and will welcome same-sex couples for both weddings and commitment ceremonies.

It’s a happy ending to something that didn’t need to be a problem in the first place – I don’t know of any state law in the US that actually says a business venue can’t perform a ceremony for a same sex couple. It may not be recognized by the state as a wedding, but the ceremony itself is allowed, right?

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USA, Tennessee: Federal Judge Says Tennessee Must Recognize Same Sex Marriages

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Tennessee mapThree same sex couples won temporary recognition of their marriages in the state, pending a hearing.

Equality on Trial reports:

A federal judge in Tennessee Friday ordered state officials to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples during the consideration of their lawsuit challenging the validity of the state’s ban on recognizing such marriages. In considering the request for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger wrote that “all relevant federal authority indicates that the plaintiffs in this case are indeed likely to prevail on their claims that the Anti-Recognition Laws are unconstitutional.” The preliminary injunction was requested in November, and the plaintiffs asked for a status update in the case this month. Yesterday, EqualityOnTrial reported that the judge noted that a decision was being worked on.

Another red state, another, albeit small, victory.

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USA: Anti Gay Bills Dead in South Dakota, Kansas, and Tennessee

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Gay RightsThree states that were considering “Right to Discriminate” bills have killed them.

The Times-Union reports on the South Dakota bill:

A measure that sought to prevent lawsuits against businesses that refuse to hire or provide services to gays and lesbians was rejected Tuesday by a South Dakota legislative panel after opponents said the bill was unnecessary and would send a message of hate or fear. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to kill the bill, which also sought to protect people from being sued for expressing their beliefs on sexual orientation.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, a member of the committee, said the measure and similar ones introduced during this year’s legislative session seem to be focused on trying to divide society. “Because what? We fear them? We fear what it’s going to lead to?” Hunhoff said. “I have a difficult time as a faith-based person that I’m supposed to be afraid of these people.”

Pink News reports on the Kansas bill:

A Tennessee Senator has dropped a bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse service for gay couples’ weddings based on religious beliefs. Senator Mike Bell on Tuesday shelved the ‘Religious Freedom Act’, (SB2566) before it went to a vote. After having taken over as lead sponsor of the bill last week, Bell admitted that the legislation was unnecessary, noting that business owners already have protections under Tennessee law. “I’m convinced that current law protects people of faith,” Bell said.

And USA Today reports from Kansas:

Senate leaders already had said the bill would not pass their chamber, but [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff] King said Tuesday that his committee won’t even take it up. “We’re not working House Bill 2453,” said King, an Independence Republican, referring to the measure by number. King said he’s not drafting a narrower alternative. He said he’ll have hearings so interested parties can have national experts discuss whether Kansas needs a new law. “Something new would have to arise out of these hearings,” he said.

I would have thought that bills like these would have been a slam dunk in states like Tennessee, Kansas and South Dakota. We really have come so far, so fast.

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USA, Tennessee: Another State Considers “Right to Discriminate” Bill

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Tennessee State Capitol

Apple Maps

Yet another state is joining the growing legion that seeks to empower anti gay wedding vendors and others to discriminate against same sex couples without fear of recrimination.

Dot429 reports:

Senator Brian Kelsey has just introduced a bill to the Tennessee State Legislature that would allow any business or individual to legally discriminate against the LGBT community. The text of Tennessee Senate Bill 2566 states that it “permits persons and religious or denominational organizations, based on sincere religious belief, to refuse to provide services or goods in furtherance of a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the Tennessee Constitution.” Unlike similar legislation in Kansas, the Tennessee bill doesn’t seem to allow the refusal of service simply because an employee doesn’t agree with a potential customer’s orientation or gender presentation, but opponents of the bill still object to the bill’s intent of legalizing a type of discrimination.

Meanwhile, The Washington Blade looks at this growing movement.

Meanwhile, at the state level, new initiatives are emerging to establish carve-outs to civil rights and marriage equality laws to enable individuals or businesses to discriminate against LGBT people and their marriages on religious grounds. One such initiative underway in Oregon is concurrent with Oregon United for Marriage’s work to bring the issue of marriage equality to voters on Election Day this year. Anti-gay groups are working to place on the ballot at the same time a measure to allow florists, bakers and other businesses to refuse to participate in these weddings on religious grounds.

So who is shopping these bills around to all the red state legislatures? Anyone have any intel?

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USA, Tennessee: GOP Proposes Bill to Allow Discrimination Against Gays

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

tennessee-state-senator-brian-kelsey.jpgOK, this thing is officially metastasizing. A fifth state is following in the footsteps of Idaho, Arizona, Kansas, and South Dakota in considering a “preemptive strike” against marriage equality by passing a law that would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.

On Top Magazine reports:

State Senator Brian Kelsey and Rep. Bill Dunn, both Republicans, have introduced similarly worded bills in their respective chambers. “As introduced, permits persons and religious or denominational organizations, based on sincere religious belief, to refuse to provide services or goods in furtherance of a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the Tennessee Constitution,” the bill’s text reads.

Someone’s got to be shopping these bills around. Based on past history, I’d suspect ALEC – anyone have a handle on this? Rachel?

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