state supreme court

...now browsing by tag

 
 

Alabama Supremes Challenge Federal Courts on Marriage Equality

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

AlabamaThe Alabama Supreme Court has weighed in on the marriage equality question, and it’s about what you’d expect.

The Dallas Voice reports:

The Alabama Supreme Court late today (Tuesday) ordered all of the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of orders from a federal district court judge overturning the Alabama same-sex marriage ban, and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to block the district judge’s order… The state’s highest court said Alabama wasn’t bound by this “new definition” of marriage, though marriage equality has “gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country,” including the federal judiciary. The supreme court’s ruling said: “As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

The Court has given probate judges five days to respond to the new order.

The case was brought by two anti-gay groups.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

The court’s ruling came in response to a request from the Southern Baptist-affiliated Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, which asked the justices to halt same-sex unions.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said he was very excited about the decision. “We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling,” Godfrey said. He said the decision will provide some stability in Alabama until the U.S Supreme Court rules later this year. The nation’s high court will hear oral arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling by June regarding whether gay couples nationwide have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban such unions.

Mat Staver at the Liberty Counsel is over the moon about the decision.

Joe.My.God reports:

The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country. The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage. This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts. The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the legislature is considering a “right to discriminate” bill.

SDGLN reports:

HB 56 would allow religious organizations to refuse solemnizing and recognizing any marriage, and prevents the government from penalizing organizations for their refusal to recognize marriage. In addition, the bill broadly defines religious organizations to include social service organizations. Because Alabama has no LGBT non-discrimination protections, this bill would exempt organizations from the general rules applicable to spouses, and could allow, for example, a religious hospital to refuse to recognize the spouse of a patient.

It’s gpnna be a crazy day down in Alabama.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Alabama.

Texas Marriage Equality Update – February 20th

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Texas mapSo much going on in Texas after a Travis County judge overturned the state’s ban on marriage equality the other day.

First off, there was a legal same sex wedding in Austin.

On Top Magazine reports:

A lesbian couple together more than 30 years married Thursday in Texas. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant exchanged vows outside the Travis County Clerk’s Office. The ceremony was presided over by Rabbi Kerry Baker. The women were denied a marriage license eight years ago.

The Dallas Voice has more on the couple:

Sarah Goodfriend is a unpaid policy advisor to Austin state Rep. Celia Israel. She advises primarily on environmental and energy issues. Suzanne Bryant is an attorney in private practice in Austin. The two have been a couple for 31 years, and they exchanged their wedding vows in front of the Travis County Clerk’s office this morning with Rabbi Kerry Baker officiating.

The Dallas Voice also points out that probate court rulings in the state only apply to a single county:

According to the Dallas County Clerk’s office, probate rulings do not carry from one county to another, so a ruling in Travis County earlier this week does not apply in Dallas… Dallas County Clerk John Warren has said he hoped to be the first county clerk to issue marriage licenses in the state. His office has advised that nothing would prevent a Dallas County couple from following the same path as Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant in Travis County and filing suit in probate court here. In this case, they’d have two Travis County opinions to cite in their petition to the court.

Meanwhile, Attorney general Ken Paxton blasted the judge’s ruling and asked the state Supreme Court to issue a stay.

Towleroad.com reports:

“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman. The probate judge’s misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

The Supreme Court wasted no time in shutting things down, but avoided voiding the first wedding that took place.

The Dallas Voice reports:

The Texas Supreme Court has issued a stay in the marriage between a Travis County couple following Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal. The order can be found here. However, this order apparently does not void Sarah Goodfriend’s and Suzanne Bryant’s marriage. Barbara Rosenberg, an attorney who works in the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, said her understanding is that the ruling can only stop future licenses from being issued.

The AG is arguing that the wedding should be voided.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Within hours, the Texas Supreme Court had blocked other gay couples from getting married under similar special exceptions – but didn’t address the women’s marriage, which Paxton said he considered void. But that remains in dispute, and Paxton’s spokeswoman, Cynthia Meyer, said their office will file additional paperwork with the state Supreme Court on Friday to argue their case. “Activist judges don’t change Texas law and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state,” Paxton said in a statement.

In other state marriage equality news, the plaintiffs in a federal case are asking the court to lift a stay.

Equality on Trial reports:

In the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case DeLeon v. Perry, which has been submitted for decision since arguments have been heard, the plaintiffs are asking the appeals court to lift the stay, or at least to do so for the plaintiffs who have children. The state has filed its opposition, and they claim in part that even if the stay is lifted, the preliminary injunction wouldn’t affect the couple who wants their names listed on their child’s birth certificate.

And in Eastern Texas, other same sex couples celebrated the ruling, but were left waiting yet again.

KYTX reports:

It’s been back and forth all day between a Travis County clerk and the Texas Attorney General after the clerk issued the state’s first same sex marriage license. However, that one license doesn’t change the situation for many other same sex couples in Texas. Karen Wilkerson and her partner have been ready to get married for a year now in Tyler. “I can’t plan a wedding, I can’t send out invitations, I cant book a place for our reception, I can’t start talking to a travel agent to plan a honeymoon because I don’t know when the decision will come down to make it legal for me to marry,” Wilkerson said. She’s happy for Austin couple Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, but says unfortunately that won’t help her case.

The state Supreme Court has only issued a stay, and hasn’t ruled on the merits of the case. We’re also waiting to see what the Fifth Circuit does in regards to its stay.

Nevertheless, it’s a crack in the dam in texas.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Texas.

South Carolina Supreme Court Lifts Marriage Equality Stay Early

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

UPDATE 7:20 AM: The US Supreme Court just turned the state away.

The Washington Blade reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t stop same-sex marriages from taking place in South Carolina following a decision against the state’s ban on gay nuptials. A one-page order from the court on Thursday indicates the stay request from state officials to block same-sex marriages and presented to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts was referred to the entire court and denied. However, the order notes U.S. Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have granted the stay.


South Carolina MapThings are moving along on the marriage equality front in South Carolina too. The state Supreme Court lifted the stay on the recent ruling early.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has lifted an injunction that prohibited the state’s probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The order comes following a ruling on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs in Columbia in favor of Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin, who sued to have the state to recognize their marriage performed in Washington, D.C. Childs ruled the state’s failure to recognize their marriage was unconstitutional.

At least six couples in Charleston immediately received marriage licenses.

On Top Magazine reports:

At least six gay couples received marriage licenses Wednesday in South Carolina. According to multiple local sources, Probate Judge Irvin Condon in Charleston issued the licenses. Within hours, Kristin Anderson and Kayla Bennett exchanged vows, making them the first gay couple to legally marry in the state. The women, together 4 years, wed in front of the Charleston County Courthouse in a ceremony officiated by Tobin Williamson.

Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson is still pinning his hopes on the US Supreme Court.

Fits News reports:

South Carolina is the only state in the fourth circuit blocking gay marriages. Its lawyers argue that conflicting lower court rulings (the sixth circuit court of appeals has upheld the right of states to ban gay marriage) necessitate the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court. For his part, Wilson has said he’s just doing his job as the state’s top lawyer – but in the process he’s become a hero of the religious right. “Alan Wilson isn’t simply going through the motions,” said Oran Smith of the Palmetto Family Council – a group which opposes gay marriage. “He and his lawyers are crafting new strategies.”

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in South Carolina.

Marriage Equality: What’s Going On in Kansas

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

KansasKansas is one of the last hold-outs on marriage equality in the group of states affected by the US Supreme Court’s non-decision earlier this week. Here’s what’s going on there.

Johnson County started the ball rolling Tuesday, accepting applications for marriage licenses. LGBTQ Nation reports:

So far, only Johnson County has announced plans to issue licenses to gay couples. The county could be poised to issue the state’s first same-sex marriage license as soon as Friday, two days after Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty ruled the county could no longer deny the applications. Kansas has a three-day waiting period before licenses can be granted, but although Moriarty issued his ruling Wednesday, the county accepted one application Tuesday from a same-sex couple, said Sandy McCurdy, the county’s court clerk. By late Thursday afternoon, the county had accepted 42 applications.

Also Tuesday, the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration suggested that counties let judges make the determination. LGBTQ Nation reports:

Some counties initially refused to even hand out marriage license paperwork to same-sex couples until the lawyer for the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration sent an email Tuesday to chief judges suggesting that counties accept the applications and noted that litigation was likely. “My recommendation is that judges, not clerks, make the decision to grant or deny a marriage license under existing Kansas law, rather than requiring a district court clerk to do so and then be required to defend a civil lawsuit,” said the email from Martha Coffman.

On Wednesday, a district court judge told clerks and judges in the state to start issuing licenses to same sex couples. LGBTQ Nation reports:

…[on Wednesday] district court Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty directed clerks and other judges to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples – even though the Kansas Constitution bans gay marriage under a provision voters approved in 2005. Moriarty acted after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve their gay-marriage bans.

On Thursday, Riley County accepted a marriage license from a same sex cuple, only to have a judge turn it down Friday. LGBTQ Nation reports:

A Kansas judge has denied a marriage license for a same-sex couple who said their application had been accepted with open arms a day earlier. KMAN-AM reports that Darcie Bonhenblust and her partner, Joleen Hickman, found out Friday morning their application had been denied. The two say the Riley County clerk told them Thursday when they filed their application there was a three-day waiting period and they could come back Tuesday to pick up their license. But on Friday morning they received an order from Judge Meryl Wilson denying the license.

By Friday, Johnson County actually handed out a marriage license to one couple. LGBTQ Nation reports:

A court office in Kansas’ most populous county issued a marriage license Friday to a gay couple, believed to be the first such license in the state. Liz Dickinson, a member of the gay-rights group Equality Kansas, said she was at the county courthouse Friday when the couple received their license. The Johnson County District Court clerk’s office confirmed that a license was issued. The clerk declined to identify the couple.

The couple quickly married, becoming the only legally married same sex couple in the state. Gay Star News reports:

According to the Associated Press, the Johnson County newlyweds are identified only Kelli and Angela. The women asked to be identified only by their first names to help protect their privacy. The marriage took place in Johnson County after Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty directed other judges and court clerks to approve marriage licenses for gay couples. The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s pastor at the courthouse in Olathe, Kansas, and after they exchanged vows, the women both returned to work. ‘Kelli and Angela are grateful for the outpouring of congratulations, well-wishes, and support from around our great state and nation,’ the Kansas Equality Coalition said in a statement.

Also on Friday, the Kansas Attorney General asked the state Supreme Court to block the issuance of any more licenses. Towleroad.com reports:

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the state Supreme Court to stop gay marriages from taking place in Johnson County – the state’s most populous county… “The Johnson County Court’s decision is an outlier,” Schmidt said in a statement accompanying his filing. “Numerous other Kansas Courts have concluded, as I have, that the law in Kansas remains unchanged and same-sex marriage remains unlawful unless and until a Court of competent jurisdiction, deciding a properly presented case or controversy, holds otherwise as a matter of federal constitutional law. Because that has not happened, I have concluded the Judge’s decision to order the issuance of licenses is unlawful and I now have no choice but to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to set it aside.”

The Kansas Supreme Court complied with the request, putting everything on hold for now. NBC News reports:

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered a clerk in that state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, after a lower court judge allowed them after other courts struck down bans on gay marriage similar to the one in Kansas. The state Supreme Court Friday evening granted a request by the Kansas attorney general that the marriage licenses be put on hold, but allowed clerks to accept applications for licenses.

SF Gate has more details:

…the victory for supporters of the Kansas Constitution’s ban on gay marriage could be short-lived. The state’s highest court signaled in its brief order that it has questions about whether the ban is permissible under recent federal court rulings, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn it… The state’s highest court blocked the granting of further marriage licenses for gay couples “in the interest of establishing statewide consistency,” said its order, signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. But the court cited recent federal court decisions striking down other states’ bans and said it would consider arguments on whether the ban remains permissible under the U.S. Constitution. The court set a hearing for Nov. 6 — two days after the general election.

Governor Sam Brownback, fighting for his political life in the state, reiterated his support for the ban. SDGLN reports:

Embattled Gov. Sam Brownback, a far-right Republican fighting for re-election, said in a statement that he would uphold the state constitution. Voters amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Brownback and Schmidt are waging a fruitless battle to stop gay marriages because of the 10th Circuit ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand as the law. Critics say they are playing politics in an election year and wasting taxpayer money to fight a losing cause.

So now we wait to see which gets there first – the Supreme Court hearing or the Federal one.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

Wisconsin Domestic Partner Registry Upheld By State Supreme Court

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Wisconsin MapThe Wisconsin Domestic Partner Registry was upheld as constitutional by the state Supreme Court yesterday.

Gay Star News reports:

Same-sex couples still can’t get married in Wisconsin but they can continue to register to have some of the rights heterosexual married couples automatically have. The state’s supreme court ruled Thursday (31 July) that a 2009 that established a registry for same-sex couples in 2009 does not violate the state’s ban on gay marriage. The registry grants same-sex couples such things as insurance benefits under their partner’s plan, the right to inherit assets upon the death of their partner as well as hospital visitation and medical leave to care for their partner.

Funny how AG Van Hollen, who claimed that “The most important duty of Wisconsin’s Attorney General is to defend our state laws and Constitution” in defending the state’s ban on marriage equality, had no interest in defending this other state law. Hypocritical much?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Wisconsin.

Colorado Marriage Equality Stalled as Court Halts Boulder Weddings

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Boulder County Clerk Hillary HallThe push for Colorado marriage equality stalled for the moment, as the state Supreme Court finally forced Boulder County clerk Hillary Hall to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

The court ruling was in response to an appeal from Republican Attorney General John Suthers, who has been trying for several weeks to get Boulder’s clerk to stop giving marriage licenses to gay couples until there’s a definitive ruling on same-sex unions from the U.S. Supreme Court. The same court previously ruled in Suthers’ favor in ordering Denver to stop issuing licenses, but that ruling didn’t apply to Boulder. Boulder was the first Colorado county to begin giving licenses to gay couples in June after the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. That ruling was stayed pending appeal.

We also have a date for the state Supreme Court hearing in the case – October 20th.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Colorado.

Florida Marriage Equality Plaintiffs Ask for State Supreme Court Hearing

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Florida Marriage Equality plaintiffsThe plaintiffs in the Florida marriage equality case in Key West are seeking to bypass the appeals court and go directly top the state Supreme Court.

Joe.My.God reports:

The two Key West bartenders who two weeks ago won their marriage lawsuit in a Monroe County court are petitioning to have their case heard by the Florida Supreme Court. Via the Miami Herald: On July 17, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared Florida’s 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, ruling against Bondi, whose office defended the ban. Huntsman and Jones have not been allowed to marry: Florida law mandates that an automatic stay pending appeal is triggered when a public official loses a court case. “We’re filing in the court of appeal, a motion, in layman’s terms, to pass through the jurisdiction of the third District Court of Appeal and to send the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court,” Restivo told the Miami Herald. “It’s going to certainly bring this case quicker to finality. It’s going to apply this case, one way or another, to the entire state of Florida, once the Supreme Court rules on it.”

Will the Supreme Court take the case, or send it back to wind its way through the appeals process?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Florida.

Alabama Sodomy Law Struck Down By State Supreme Court

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Alabama mapThe Alabama sodomy law, invalid since 2003, was finally actually struck down yesterday.

Joe.My.God reports:

An Alabama appeals court yesterday struck down the state’s ban on consensual oral and anal sex. Such acts have been legal nationwide since Lawrence V Texas, but still. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued its unanimous ruling in Williams vs. Alabama, the appeal of a Dallas County man who was convicted of sexual misconduct, though the jury found the homosexual sexual encounter was consensual. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals said today a portion of Alabama’s sexual misconduct statute is unconstitutional. It was referring to code section 13A-6-65, which reads in part, “consent is no defense to a prosecution.” The state appeals court noted the legislative commentary for the statute says the consent section “was changed by the legislature to make all homosexual conduct criminal, and consent is no defense.”

Sodomy laws have been used selectively to persecute gays in many states, and were all invalidated by the US Supreme Court in 2003, but many states have refused to remove them from their books.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Alabama.

Nebraska Lesbian Divorce Blocked By State Supreme Court

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

NebraskaImagine if you no longer loved your husband or wife, and your state’s Supreme Court stepped in to tell you that you had to remain married to them.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Nebraska’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Friday by woman legally wed to another woman in Iowa who is now seeking a divorce in the state where they live, saying it didn’t have jurisdiction and therefore could not address the constitutional arguments raised about same-sex marriage and divorce in Nebraska… The state attorney general’s office, in a friend of the court brief, argued that allowing the divorce would run afoul of the state’s constitutional amendment and that granting the divorce “would in effect disenfranchise 70 percent of Nebraska’s voters (who voted for the amendment).” Nichols’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, had argued that the U.S. Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause requires Nebraska to recognize the marriage. But Nebraska’s Supreme Court dismissed the case without addressing constitutional issues, saying that because Nichols had appealed from a conditional order and not a final judgment, it lacks jurisdiction over the appeal.

Some day, and maybe some day soon, we’ll be past this messy patchwork of state by state laws that dictate when we can marry, and when we can get divorced.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Nebraska.

Nebraska: Lesbian Couple Asks for Divorce

Friday, March 28th, 2014

NebraskaA lesbian couple has asked for a divorce in a case that could challenge the state’s marriage equality ban.

The Journal Star reports:

A Raymond woman who married her longtime, same-sex partner in Iowa in 2009 is now petitioning the Nebraska Supreme Court to be allowed to divorce.

How many states are left that don’t either have full marriage equality or have a lawsuit pending?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Nebraska.