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Alabama in Turmoil After Marriage Equality Comes to State

Monday, February 9th, 2015

As the US Supreme Court declined to extend the stay on a Federal Judge’s ruling and as same sex couples started to marry in the state, opponents of marriage equality dug in their heels.

Things started off well enough, with many counties issuing licenses.

Joe.My.God reports:

According to local media it appears that the majority of Alabama’s 67 counties are issuing or prepared to issue same-sex marriage licenses. At this writing fewer than a dozen counties have confirmed that they are defying this morning’s order by the Supreme Court. Probate judges in several counties decided not to issue any marriage licenses at all – to same-sex or heterosexual couples. In some counties, including Butler County, Colbert County and Coosa County probate courts are taking marriage applications from all couples but not issuing licenses. In Coffee County, Jefferson County, Chilton County and Madison County, probate judges said they will issue marriage licenses to all couples, gay and straight, on Monday morning. Probate judges in other counties chose to follow the order issued late Sunday by Chief Justice Moore. Probate judges in Bibb County, Covington County, Cleburne County and Washington County decided not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, but will still issue licenses to opposite-sex couples.

As the day wore on, more and more counties jumped on the anti-gay discrimination bandwagon.

Joe.My.God reports:

At the start of the day fewer than a dozen of Alabama’s 67 counties had been confirmed as refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. It appears that number has now about tripled. Most of the counties contacted by this morning have suspended issuing all marriage licenses in the wake of conflicting rulings from a federal judge and the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The majority of counties across the state have either suspended the issuance of all marriage licenses or are only accepting applications. Probate judges have said it is the best compromise for the moment, until they determine which order to follow. Other probate judges have said that they may change their policies within hours or days. Counties colored red are not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Those colored green are issuing licenses to all couples. Those shaded in yellow are not issuing any marriage licenses and those colored orange are only accepting applications, but issuing no licenses.

Alabama Map

The Governor was no help.

Towleroad reports:

“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue. We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”

And the Attorney General took up the Chief Justice’s contention that probate judges could turn away same sex couples.

On Top Magazine reports:

In responding to a decision by the Supreme Court not to stay two federal judge’s rulings striking down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange suggested that probate judges do not have to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Strange had asked the Supreme Court to delay Monday’s scheduled implementation of the rulings. In a 7-2 decision, the court denied Strange’s request.

The Human Rights Campaign called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Moore over his refusal to follow the federal court judgment.

The Dallas Voice reports:

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a petition to remove Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from office. Moore urged the governor of Alabama and probate judges, who issue licenses in the state, to stand in the way of same-sex marriages despite an explicit order by a federal judge. The HRC petition calls on the Judicial Inquiry Commission to take action against Moore — who previously declared that homosexuality should be a punishable offense and grounds for losing parental custody — for shirking the law and the obligations of his office.

One of the plaintiff couples filed a contempt motion against the Mobile County probate judge for refusing to issue licenses.

Equality on Trial reports:

Mobile County, Alabama, is stalling in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The county has said there are some delays, and they’re not issuing licenses until those are worked out. They aren’t even opening the marriage license division. Attorneys for the couple who filed Searcy v. Strange have just filed a contempt motion requesting “an Order declaring the Honorable Don Davis to be in contempt, to further order law enforcement to open the marriage license division of Mobile County Probate Court, impose sanctions against the Honorable Don Davis, and any such further legal remedies this Court deems appropriate and just, the premises considered.”

The motion was promptly swatted down by a federal judge.

Joe.My.God reports:

“Probate Judge Don Davis is not a party in this case and the Order of January 23, 2015, did not directly order Davis to do anything. Judge Davis’s obligation to follow the Constitution does not arise from this court’s Order. The Clarification Order noted that actions against Judge Davis or others who fail to follow the Constitution could be initiated by persons who are harmed by their failure to follow the law. However, no such action is before the Court at this time.”

The couple responded with an amended complaint against pretty much everyone in Mobile County government.

Joe.My.God reports:

Mobile lawsuit

The Supreme Court’s decision to not extend the stay reinforces the trend they started in Florida.

USA Today reports:

The Supreme Court will decide whether to allow same-sex marriage nationwide later this year. But it’s leaving little doubt which way it’s leaning. The latest evidence came Monday, when the high court denied Alabama’s request that gay marriages be blocked while the state appeals a federal judge’s ruling that allowed gays and lesbians to wed. That was the same decision the justices reached in Florida two months ago, allowing the Sunshine State to become the 36th in the nation where same-sex marriage is legal. Alabama now becomes the 37th.

In one bit of excellent news, Paul Hard, a gay man who has been embroiled in a legal fight against his deceased husband’s mother as she tries to steal her son’s estate won the latest round.

Towleroad reports:

The state of Alabama has issued Hard a new death certificate for Fancher, this time listing Fancher as his husband. Said Hard, “Getting David’s death certificate was emotional. Just to finally see the wording on there that at the time of his death he was married, and he was married to me, corrects a hurtful wrong.”

This will make it much harder for the evil mother-in-law to get her hands on her son’s estate.

We’ll leave you with this cartoon, which draws a great parallel between the hateful men blocking the door to marriage equality and their counterparts in an earlier era.

Cartoon Birmingham News

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Alabama.

Wisconsin Marriage Equality Updates

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Wisconsin MapAlthough many counties in Wisconsin are now issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, some are not.

Edge Boston reports:

Clerks in several counties said they would not issue licenses until they have received directions from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services, which oversees vital statistics, said it would not issue any guidance until it received directions from Van Hollen. Brown County Deputy Clerk Justin Schmit said he turned away about 15 couples in Green Bay on Monday morning, and an employee in the Racine County clerk’s office said she had too.

The judge is not helping.

The Wire reports:

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling against Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. Since then, clerks and couples across the state have struggled to interpret her judgement — specifically, whether the ruling allowed for same-sex marriages to begin immediately in the state. That means that for the past two days some counties have issued licenses, while others have declined to do so. On Monday, Crabb addressed the confusion by, well, not clearing up very much at all. Crabb did not issue a stay, meaning same-sex marriages may continue in Wisconsin. However, she also let everyone know that her order was never intended to allow same-sex marriage to begin immediately.

US Representative Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) is slamming the state Attorney General for appealing the marriage equality ruling.

Joe.My.God reports:

The Attorney General’s decision to appeal the ruling that struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage is a regressive and blatantly political attempt to revive a hateful and discriminatory law which violates the ideals of liberty and equality in our Constitution. Society has changed, barriers to equality continue to be broken down; it’s too bad our Attorney General is still living in a more hateful day.

Now we wait on the Seventh Circuit.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Marriage Equality Rolls On – 42 Counties Now Issuing Marriage Licenses

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Wisconsin MapSame sex couples continue to marry in Wisconsin today after the judge refused to stay her ruling.

The New Civil Rights Movement reports:

A U.S. District Court Judge today refused to stay or halt her Friday ruling that found Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage is illegal, paving the way for the majority of county clerk offices to offer licenses. When the day began, just two counties, Dane and Milwaukee, were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That quickly jumped up to five, and then by noon, fifteen. After Judge Barbara Crabb around 1:00 PM today ruled she would not intervene, the number of counties issuing marriage licenses shot up to at least 42, as of minutes ago. There are 72 counties in Wisconsin.

Teo thirds of Wisconsin’s counties are now giving marriage licenses to same sex couples – amazing! When will the window close?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Wisconsin.

USA, Illinois: Two More Counties Jump on the Marriage Equality Bandwagon

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Illinois Counties with Marriage Equality

Illinois Counties Starting Marriage Equality Early

An update on Illinois and the early arrival of marriage equality.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Two more counties say they will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the state’s new marriage equality law takes effect on June 1. St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook and Cass County Clerk Michael Kirchner say they will start accepting applications immediately. That’s after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan advised that counties don’t have to wait until June. Madigan’s guidance was in response to a question about the scope of a federal court ruling that found Illinois’ original ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

And one of our readers, Emily, reports:

“I called the Jackson County courthouse yesterday and the woman I spoke to said they were waiting on the software to be installed and “some documents from the State” (whatever that means); but they would be issuing same sex licenses as soon as these things were in place. I was happily surprised to hear this response from our small town filled county.”

So that’s six counties for sure, and maybe eight if you include Lake County (which is seeking further clarification from AG Madigan before proceeding) and Jackson County.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Illinois.

Map via US Census

USA, Illinois: Will Counties Follow Governor, Attorney General’s Lead on Marriage Equality?

Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Illinois Counties

Five Counties Issuing or Considering Issuing Licenses Now

Both Governor Quinn and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan have endorsed the Cook County ruling moving up the date for marriage equality in Illinois to now from June 1st. But will other counties follow suit?

LGBTQ Nation reports:

County clerks around Illinois say they won’t start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately as Attorney General Lisa Madigan said this week they have the right to do. Many worry that doing so before the new law takes effect in June could put their offices at risk of lawsuits and perhaps hurt the couples themselves. In interviews with about a dozen clerks, only one – Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean – said he would begin as soon as he has proper software installed for the forms that need to be filled out. Bean said the first marriage license might be issued as early as Friday. As for the others, they said they would not follow the lead of Cook and Champaign counties, which have already started issuing licenses, or McLean County, which will start March 24.

Clerks in the “collar counties” – those around Chicago, agreed.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Officials in Chicago’s collar counties still plan to wait until June to begin granting same-sex marriage licenses, despite a statement this week from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the state’s current restriction on gay marriage is unconstitutional. If anything, some county clerks said, Madigan’s opinion has led to more confusion. “It’s putting the clerks, I would say, in a very precarious situation,” said McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz. “Let me tell you, the law says June 1. If (legislators) want it different, they need to get it changed.”… “Without a court order saying we should do it … any license could be challenged,” said Kane County Clerk John Cunningham, who questioned whether Madigan’s letter was politically motivated. “What authority do we have to issue them?”

Should Madigan have been more forceful in her opinion? So far, only four counties are issuing licenses or have indicated they will soon: Cook, Champaign, Macon and McLean. Lake County has also asked for clarification form the AG. All five counties are in northern or central Illinois.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Illinois.

Image via the US Census.

USA, California: Counties See Big Boost in Marriage Licenses From Supreme Court Ruling

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

California Marriage License MapAcross California, the number of marriage licenses requested was up – way up – over the last month.

AFER reports:

Increases were especially high in romantic wedding destinations–such as the coastal counties of Santa Cruz (118%), Monterey (42%) and Ventura (42%), the Bay Area (Alameda, 52%, Marin, 86%, San Mateo, 46%), and wine country (Napa, 44%, Sonoma, 52%)–but also in more rural and historically conservative areas such as Amador (7)%), Colusa (167%), Nevada (46%), Riverside (62%), and San Bernardino (41%) counties. The state does not track the demographic information of people applying for marriage licenses, including gender, but it’s safe to say that a large part of the surge is due to the large number of gay and lesbian couples in the state who were waiting to tie the knot. Couples have 90 days to get married after they obtain a marriage license.

How much money do you think this all added to California’s coffers? States that don’t yet allow marriage equality should take note.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in California.

USA, New Mexico: Marriage Equality Fight Updates

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

New Mexico MapThere’s still a lot going on in New Mexico on the marriage equality front. Here are a few of the updates.

One County Clerk is explicitly saying she will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, at least not until a judge tells her to. The Daily Times reports:

San Juan County has never issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Holmes said she has been advised by the county’s legal department not to issue them. “I’m waiting for someone to sue me, and that’s certainly something they can do,” she said. “I feel like I need to follow the law as I’ve been told how to do it.” Holmes said her staff has indicated that at least one same-sex couple “mentioned” suing the county on Monday because the clerk’s office didn’t give the couple a marriage license.

The Washington Post looks at the situation in the other counties:

But whether the rulings means same-sex marriage is legal throughout New Mexico is unclear. Attorney General Gary King (D) has said he will not appeal the rulings, and both Oliver and Salazar have said their offices won’t appeal. Clerks in the 28 other counties can choose to follow existing case law and issue their own same-sex marriage licenses, or they could wait to issue licenses until they are compelled by a court order to do so, according to Cathryn Oakley, an attorney for the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights group in Washington.

Edge Boston reports that the marriages, for now, may be legally valid:

In the meantime, recently married couples aren’t caught in legal limbo, according to Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a professor of family law at the University of New Mexico. She said Wednesday the marriages are legally sound, even if the state Supreme Court were to override recent district judge’s rulings that ordered clerks to issue licenses. “In New Mexico, the legal policy is marriages are presumed valid until a court declares them invalid (on an individual basis),” said Sedillo Lopez.

And New Mexico’s Atty. Gen. Gary King extends the same line of reasoning to marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Sandoval County in 2004. LGBTQ Nation reports:

Attorney General Gary King says marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in 2004 in New Mexico’s Sandoval County remain valid. King said Wednesday that licenses issued by a county clerk are “presumptively valid” unless voided by a court. King delivered the non-binding advice in a letter to the current Sandoval County clerk, who found that some of the 2004 licenses recorded in the clerk’s office were labeled as void or invalid.

In Dona Ana County, the county to start this all, County commissioners voted 4-1 to support the County Clerk and marriage licenses for same-sex couples. KRWG reports:

Both those in favor and those opposed had to come to terms with whether this was legal or not. That’s something the county commission would decide. On the agenda — item number 17 – a resolution supporting marriage equality and county clerk Lynn Ellins’ decision to issue licenses to same-sex couples. “The happiness that I and my dedicated staff…has seen has been overwhelming,” said Ellins… The commission approved the resolution 4 – 1. Ellins is allowed to continue issuing the licenses for now.

Not everyone is thrilled with the sudden rush to the altar. The Hill reports:

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said the decision would cause confusion and ultimately frustration, implying that the ruling would not hold up for long. “The reckless actions of this judge acting on personal opinion and ignoring legislative procedure threatens serious confusion, frustration, and pain for those who are being led to believe that the law has changed,” Pearce said in a statement to The Hill. District Judge Alan Malott’s ruling earlier this week cleared the way for county clerks in the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Activist judges blah blah blah – we’ve heard this all before.

What do you think will happen next? What do you think should happen next?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in New Mexico.