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US Supreme Court Takes Four Marriage Equality Cases

Friday, January 16th, 2015

US Supreme Court Color

This is huge – the Supremes just took all four cases from the Sixth Circuit:

The Supreme Court has just granted certiorari — i.e. agreed to hear oral arguments — in the Sixth Circuit marriage cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. They were consolidated. This means that the question of whether or not the United States Constitution protects the freedom of same-sex couples to marry is likely to be decided by the end of June. The Supreme Court order, issued this afternoon at approximately 3:30 PM, contains the following instructions: The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted.

We should know by June if the whole US has marriage equality!

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Marriage Equality USA Community Call on Sixth Circuit Hearing Tonight

Monday, November 10th, 2014

MEUSA Conference CallPlease join Marriage Equality USA and partners for a national COMMUNITY CALL to be held on the evening of Monday, November 10th to discuss the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals marriage equality ruling.

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

Sign up now for the call!

On 6 November 2014, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled in marriage equality cases Bourke v. Beshear from Kentucky, DeBoer v. Snyder from Michigan, Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges from Ohio, and Tanco v. Haslam from Tennessee.

The Court ruled against equality, with the exception of of dissenting Judge Martha Daughtry, upholding the existing state bans on same-sex marriage and overtunring the lower court decisions in those states. There is much debate as to what happens next and if this ruling, which resulted in a Circuit Court split, will ensure that marriage will be addressed by the Supreme Court of the United States.

You are invited to our Community Call to discuss the ruling, to hear community reaction, and to ask questions about what this means for the marriage equality movement. This call is open to all supporters of marriage equality and allies — feel free to share this info!

Participants on the call will include: Chris Stoll, Senior Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights; Larry Dupuis, Legal Director, ACLU of Wisconsin; Kathleen Perrin, Director, Equality Case Files; and host John Lewis, Director of Legal and Policy, Marriage Equality USA. The call will be moderated by Brian Silva, Executive Director of Marriage Equality USA.

To receive the call in information, sign up now! All attendees will receive the call information on the morning of Wednesday, August 6.

Comparing the Sixth Circuit Marriage Equality Ruling to The Others

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Gay WeddingThe AP has a great breakdown of the Sixth Circuit marriage equality smack down versus earlier cases.

CBS Detroit reports:

Breaking ranks with rulings from other federal courts, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Ohio upholds gay marriage bans in four states, including Michigan, saying the courts aren’t the right place to legalize gay marriage. Here’s a look at some key passages and how they compare to previous federal rulings:

1. Children

The Latest: The 6th Circuit ruling says that limiting unions to being only between a man and a woman is a view shared “not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States. People may not need the government’s encouragement to have sex or “propagate the species,” it says, but may need encouragement to “create and maintain stable relationships within which children may flourish.”

“Imagine a society without marriage. It does not take long to envision problems that might result from an absence of rules about how to handle the natural effects of male-female intercourse: children,” the opinion says. “May men and women follow their procreative urges wherever they take them? Who is responsible for the children that result?”

The judges acknowledge that gay and lesbian couples are equally capable of being in loving, committed relationships and effectively raising children. But those facts don’t mean states must suddenly believe gay marriage bans violate the constitution, the opinion says.

Earlier Rulings: The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit said the proposition that children suffer in same-sex households “reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response. We reject it out of hand.”

The Denver-based 10th Circuit scoffed at the attempts by Utah and other states to use procreation as a justification for gay marriage bans. In a majority opinion written by Judge Carlos Lucero, the court pointed out that adoptive parents and opposite-sex couples who rely on assistance to get pregnant aren’t denied the right to marry. They said they don’t buy the contention that same-sex couples are inferior parents.

It’s a great breakdown – read the whole thing.

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Sixth Circuit Upholds Marriage Equality Bans

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

My friends, we have a circuit court split – the Sixth Circuit became the first in the nation to uphold a ban on same sex marriage.

The Washington Blade reports:

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that bans on same-sex marriage in each of the four states within its jurisdiction are constitutional, once again opening up the possibility for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prohibitions on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee pass constitutional muster.

The 42-page majority opinion was written by U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of George W. Bush who was seen as the panel’s swing vote on marriage. Sutton bases much of the ruling on his determination that bans on same-sex marriage pass rational basis review and, much like he suggested during his questioning in oral arguments, that the democratic process should decide the marriage issue, not the courts.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton said. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

Justice Ginsberg said recently that there was no reason for the Court to step in until and unless there was a split among the circuit courts. Will the Court now take another marriage equality case?

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In-Depth Analysis of the Sixth Circuit Hearing

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Sixth CircuitSitting in the federal courtroom in Cincinnati, listening to the Sixth Circuit arguments in six same-sex marriage cases, one theme seemed especially prevalent: state defenders of same-sex marriage bans argued that the issue should be left up to “the democratic process”, and their concerns were shared by Judge Jeffrey Sutton.

Judge Sutton asked the plaintiffs’ lawyer in one case, “assuming you win,” isn’t it better and more honest to win by way of the democratic process? Sutton, whose background is in leading litigation that promoted federalism, alternatively wondered aloud whether LGBT people should win their rights by changing every person’s mind, and whether states are permitted to move one step at a time, addressing issues incrementally, even though their approach may leave some groups without protection for long periods of time.

A short and rhetorical answer to this problem is Justice Jackson’s opinion in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, in which he said that “fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” That was one answer given by the plaintiffs. Judge Sutton seemed to suggest in his comments that the “dignity” that Justice Kennedy addressed in United States v. Windsor was tied to the fact that in New York, there was a decision by the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Without the state’s approval, he seemed to be saying, the win is less legitimate.

There are several problems with this line of thinking, and ultimately the Sixth Circuit may not adopt it because of those problems.

Authored By Scottie Thompson – See the Full Story at Equality on Trial

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Will Sixth Circuit Be First to Rule Against Marriage Equality?

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

Andrew Sullivan collects some of the views from pundits who see a possible end to the winning streak for marriage equality in the courts.

The Dish reports:

At one rather awkward point, Sutton launched into a strange monologue about the gay rights movement’s tactics, one that seemed barely tethered to the merits of the case at hand:

I would’ve thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process. Forcing one’s neighbors, co-employees, friends, to recognize that these marriages, the status deserves the same respect as the status in a heterosexual couple. … If the goal is to change hearts and minds … isn’t it worth the expense? Don’t you think you’re more likely to change hearts and minds through the democratic process than you are through a decision by five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court?

These words should be very unnerving for supporters of same-sex marriage. Don’t come to us with your demands for equal protection and fundamental rights, Sutton implied; take your case to the voters instead. Being a legal stranger to your spouse and child isn’t so bad, he suggests, that you need to turn to the federal courts for relief.

How soon will the court rule? And if it does rule against marriage equality, will this help to create incentive for the US Supreme Court to step in?

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Sixth Circuit Hears Marriage Equality Cases From Four States

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit heard marriage equality cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee yesterday.

Freedom to Marry has a nice collection of quotes from the decisions that got the cases here:

“Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot take your marriage away, because the right t remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.” –Obergefell v. Wymyslo ruling, Ohio

“No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages, individually or collectively. One’s belief to the contrary, however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights.” Bourke v. Beshear ruling, Kentucky

“In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. Today’s decision affirms the enduring principle that regardless of who finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.” Deboer v Snyder ruling, Michigan

Joe.My.God also has a couple videos from the marriage equality rally before the hearing:

During the hearing, at least one of the judges, Martha Daughtrey, openly mocked Mark Regnerus, author of a discredited study on gay parenting (from a reporter’s tweet and notes):

“Even the Texas professor’s University doesn’t believe anything this man says… What harm comes? It doesn’t look like the sky has fallen in other cases.”

Judge Daughtrey also pressed a Michigan Attorney on the comparison between bans on same sex marriage and interracial marriage.

She also pressed him to differentiate between banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting interracial marriage, which was prevalent in many states until a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. “That was a vote by the people of many states against interracial marriage,” she said. Lindstrom countered that race doesn’t play a role in the fundamental definition of marriage.

The two GOP appointees on the panel appeared to give some weight to the “will of the people” argument, while the Democratic appointee appeared to clearly favor marriage equality:

Republican appointee Judge Jeffrey Sutton repeatedly questioned whether voters rather than courts should decide whether gay marriage is legal. Sutton is respected within legal circles and his views could help sway the five conservative members of the Supreme Court. The panel’s sole Democratic appointee, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, was the only member who clearly signaled support for plaintiffs seeking recognition for gay marriage. The third judge, Deborah Cook, gave fewer indications of where she stood. But like Sutton, Cook indicated that deference should be given to voters.

The New York Times has their own take on the three judges:

Judge Sutton did suggest that the arguments offered against marriage equality were weak, saying that marriage bans would be hard to defend if subjected to the intense “heightened scrutiny” that courts apply when fundamental civil rights are at stake. But he also wondered whether legal precedents in the Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court should prevent the panel from declaring same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right deserving court intervention.

In often caustic questions, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the Clinton appointee, left no doubt where she stood. When the lawyer for Michigan said that the courts should not tamper with an institution as deeply rooted as marriage, she replied that bans on interracial marriage were also deeply rooted before the Supreme Court found them unconstitutional. “That was the law across a huge swath of the Southern states,” she said.

The third judge, Deborah L. Cook, another Bush appointee, spoke little during the unusual proceeding in which one state’s case followed another without any breaks. But she seemed to favor the right of states to ban same-sex marriage.

The audio files for the hearings have now been posted.

So now we wait for a few months for the rulings. Yes, two judges were GOP appointees, but there are a number of GOP-appointed judges among those who have ruled for marriage equality over the last year.

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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 After Sixth Circuit Hearing

Monday, August 4th, 2014

MEUSA LogoPlease plan to join Marriage Equality USA for our 6th Circuit MEUSA Community Call Wednesday evening, August 6, following the marriage equality hearing.

Gina Calcagno with Michigan for Marriage will be joining us; call co-sponsored by ACLU-KY and the Fairness Campaign. Sign-up now! http://bit.ly/1sjBEjg

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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