Tag Archives: amendment

Republican wins could lead to amending U.S. Constitution

The November election put Republicans in full control of a record number of state legislatures around the country, a level of power that gives the party an unprecedented opportunity: change the U.S. Constitution.

Republicans already control Congress, the White House and more governors’ offices than they have in nearly a century. But it’s the state legislatures that could produce lasting change.

The GOP now holds numerical majorities in 33 legislatures, one shy of the two-thirds required to initiate a convention on constitutional amendments. There is no credible talk of using that power for amendments on hot-button social issues, such as banning abortion or gay marriage. But conservatives have a list of bread-and-butter governing issues they would like to see enshrined in the Constitution.

One, to require a balanced federal budget, is already approaching the level of support that would trigger a convention. Beyond that, a major state-level push is planned during 2017 for a constitutional convention that could also consider amendments to impose term limits on members of Congress and rein in various federal powers.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged support for an amendment on congressional term limits.

“The possibility of constitutional change is in the air,” said law professor Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit museum that is hosting academic debates and symposiums about the efforts to amend the Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times since it was ratified in 1788, and its Article V spells out two ways to propose amendments. By a two-thirds vote of each chamber, the U.S. House and Senate can refer an amendment to the states. Or two-thirds of the state legislatures can request that Congress call a convention of the states.

Both scenarios require three-fourths of the states — or 38 — to ratify an amendment before it takes effect.

If the supporters of a balanced budget amendment succeed, it would be the first time in the nation’s history that states initiated the process. That scenario has become more likely as a result of the November election.

It takes 34 states to trigger a convention for constitutional amendments, meaning a unified Republican push would need the help of only a few Democrats in a single state to reach the mark.

“The overwhelming success of one political party at the state level is something of real constitutional significance,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale University.

Every state except Vermont has some sort of balanced budget requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. government does not, but not everyone agrees that’s a problem. During recessions, for example, federal government spending can help drive the economy even if it means spending at a deficit.

Twenty-eight state legislatures already have approved measures calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget requirement, although they use a variety of terms that could raise legal questions about whether they all count toward the threshold.

Organizers at the nonprofit Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force have lined up sponsors in nine additional Republican-led legislatures — Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — with the goal of reaching the two-thirds threshold in 2017.

But Republican control is no guarantee of success.

A Wyoming measure calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment was shelved in 2015 after the state Senate altered it to make it contingent on assurances that Wyoming would not see a reduction in federal revenue.

Montana’s Republican-led House overwhelmingly defeated a resolution calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment when it last met in 2015. Opponents expressed fears of a “runaway convention” during which delegates might propose all types of possible amendments.

Similar fears have thwarted past attempts at passing a balanced budget amendment. The movement peaked at 32 states when Missouri passed a resolution calling for a convention in 1983, then dipped to about half that as numerous states rescinded their resolutions. The tally began growing again after Republicans swept into control of many capitols in 2010.

The possibility of a convention dominated by delegates from a single party is “alarming,” said Carolyn Fiddler, a spokeswoman for the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

“There are no rules. They can just throw out the whole Constitution if they want to,” Fiddler said. “It’s the wildest of Wild West situations.”

Supporters of a balanced budget amendment hope to allay such fears by convening this coming summer in Nashville, Tennessee, to propose rules and procedures for a future convention on constitutional amendments. They contend a convention is unlikely to veer off into contentious issues such as abortion and gun rights because amendments ultimately will need bipartisan appeal to win ratification from 38 states.

The mere possibility of a state-initiated convention has been enough to prompt Congress to action in the past. With states just shy of the two-thirds mark in 1912, Congress instead wrote its own amendment requiring senators to be elected by a vote of the people rather than through state legislatures. The states then ratified the amendment.

But Congress has repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds vote needed to refer a balanced budget amendment to the states. The last time both chambers tried was in 2011.

During the past three years, eight states have passed resolutions calling for a convention that would go beyond a balanced budget amendment to include other fiscal restraints, term limits for Congress and federal officials, and unspecified restrictions on federal power. Though still far from the two-thirds threshold, supporters of those causes believe the Republican rise to power could help their movement grow rapidly.

“With the election and things that have happened, it provides really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore critical structural checks in our constitutional system,” said Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, a Republican attorney.

Ivory was elected in September as the presiding officer of a simulated convention of the states designed to demonstrate that the method of proposing constitutional amendments actually can work. Among those present at the event was law professor Randy Barnett, director of the Center for the Constitution at Georgetown University.

“Amending the Constitution is always a longshot, no matter how you go about it,” Barnett said. But if 34 states — including 33 Republican ones — call for such a convention, “it would be very difficult for the Congress to stop that.”

Wisconsin communities vote to amend, overturn Citizens United

Wisconsin voters in 18 communities Nov. 8 voted for non-binding referenda to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that money is not the same thing as free speech and overturn Citizens United.

“People across the ideological spectrum get it: All of our voices are being drowned out by those with big money,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The questions were approved with overwhelming majorities:

• Rock County (86 percent)

• Reedsburg (86 percent)

• Manitowoc (81 percent)

• Delafield (79 percent)

• Neshkoro (88 percent)

• New Glarus (88 percent)

• Spring Valley (91 percent)

• Osceola (86 percent)

• Mt. Horeb (84 percent)

• Monticello (86 percent)

• Clayton (86 percent)

• New Glarus (83 percent)

• Harris (65 percent)

• Springdale (86 percent)

• Decatur (89 percent)

• Mount Pleasant (84 percent)

• Cadiz (87 percent)

• Lake Tomahawk (91 percent)

A total of 96 Wisconsin communities — home to 2.8 million people — have called for an amendment.

Across the country, 18 state legislatures have voted for a constitutional amendment, as well as more than 700 towns, villages, cities and counties.

Jeanette Kelty, a leader of the amendment movement in Green County, said the morning after the election, “We are extremely pleased that these referenda passed by such high margins. This clearly demonstrates the will of the people. It is time for our state representatives to put this resolution to a statewide vote, and to move towards sending a resolution from Wisconsin to the U.S. Congress.”

Four in five Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, according to a Bloomberg poll. A New York Times/CBS poll.

“Big money has absolutely corrupted our system of government of, by, and for the people,” said Gerry Flakas of Delafield, another activist involved in the amendment push. “The only solution is to amend the Constitution to clarify that money is not speech and a corporation is not a person.”

On the Web

United To Amend is a non-partisan, grassroots movement. For more information visit wiuta.org.

Aid for wrongfully convicted could make open records problem

A bill that would increase compensation for people wrongly convicted of crimes has open records advocates worried over what it would do to court records.

The bipartisan bill from Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, would help the wrongly convicted with up to $50,000 per year spent behind bars, plus transitional services and access to state health insurance.

Another provision requires a court to seal all records related to the conviction if it’s requested by the person freed. Open records advocates say that would make it hard to examine the case to figure out where it went wrong.

“Do we really want to hide from public view the court file in cases where an injustice was done by the justice system?” said Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council president Bill Lueders.

Lueders pointed to the recent “Making a Murderer” Netflix documentary series about Manitowoc County native Steven Avery, who served 18 years in prison for sexual assault before he was exonerated. A few years after his release, Avery was sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 death of photographer Teresa Halbach. Under the current bill, Lueders said, much of the information about how the sexual assault case was handled would not have been public, giving Avery sole discretion on what to divulge.

“Sealing it all up conceals not only the fact that it happened, but also the misconduct that occurred in the case,” said Madison media law attorney Robert Dreps.

Hebl said he’s a strong supporter of open records and transparency, but in the case of people who were wrongly convicted, the records can hurt their chances to remake their lives.

“The fact that they’ve gone through this horrible travesty of judgment and spent so much time in prison for something they didn’t do, I think it’s incumbent upon us to give them some reasonable rights,” Hebl said.

The state Assembly passed the bill unanimously Tuesday and the Senate could take it up this week.

Lueders is pushing for the Senate to remove or amend the language on records. Hebl said he hasn’t heard from any legislators interested in doing that.

Hebl noted defendants could share their records with the public or with media if they want, but Dreps said giving that right only to defendants raises First Amendment concerns.

“I don’t sacrifice my constitutional rights to a defendant’s whim,” Dreps said.

He instead suggested attaching a note to any court records or online records when a case is overturned. Lueders said for most of those, shielding information won’t help with the reputation of the person involved. Many are high-profile cases with extensive media coverage that would still live online.

“You’re not going to make it go away by hiding certain court records,” Lueders said.

Trump: Deport native-born children of immigrants illegally living in U.S.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants more than a wall to keep out immigrants living in the country illegally. He also wants to end “birthright citizenship” for their children, he said on Aug. 16.

And he would rescind Obama administration executive orders on immigration and toughen deportation, allowing in only “the good ones.”

Trump described his expanded vision of how to secure American borders during a wide-ranging interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” saying that he would push to end the constitutionally protected citizenship rights of children of any family living illegally inside the United States.

“They have to go,” Trump said, adding: “What they’re doing, they’re having a baby. And then all of a sudden, nobody knows…the baby’s here.”

Native-born children of immigrants — even those living illegally in the U.S. — have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1868.

The odds of repealing the amendment’s citizenship clause would be steep, requiring the votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and support from three-fourths of the nation’s state legislatures. Republicans in Congress have pushed without success to repeal that provision since 2011.

“They’re illegal,” Trump said, describing native-born children of people living illegally in the United States. “You either have a country or not.”

Trump’s remarks came as his campaign website posted his program for “immigration reform.” Among its details: Making Mexico pay for a permanent border wall. Mandatory deportation of all “criminal aliens.” Tripling the force of immigration officers by eliminating tax credit payments to immigrant families residing illegally in the U.S.

He said that families with U.S.-born children could return quickly if deemed worthy by the government. “We’re going to try and bring them back rapidly, the good ones,” he said, adding: “We will expedite it so people can come back in. The good people can come back.”

Trump did not elaborate on how he would define “good people.” But echoing earlier controversial remarks that Mexico was sending criminals across the border, Trump said a tough deportation policy was needed because “there’s definitely evidence” of crimes linked to immigrants living in the country illegally.

The New York businessman also said he would waste little time rescinding President Barack Obama’s executive actions aimed at allowing as many as 3.7 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. to remain in the country because of their U.S.-born relatives. Obama’s November 2014 actions were halted by temporary injunctions ordered by several federal courts in rulings challenging his executive powers to alter immigration policies without Congressional approval. The cases could lead to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We have to make a whole new set of standards,” Trump said. “And when people come in, they have to come in legally.”

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich echoed Trump’s call to finish construction of an incomplete system of barriers on the nation’s southern border with Mexico. There are still gaps in the barriers, which have been under construction since 2005.

Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Kasich said he would “finish the wall” but would then work to legalize 12 million immigrants now estimated to live in the U.S. illegally. Kasich said he would “make sure we don’t have anybody — any of the criminal element here.” He would also revive the guest-worker programs that previously brought in temporary workers to aid in farming and other industries hobbled by labor shortages.

Most other GOP candidates also back completing the border wall but differ over how to treat immigrant families already living in the U.S. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently released his own immigration plan calling for the use of forward bases and drones to guard the border, but also backing an eventual plan to legalize the status of immigrant families. Bush disagrees with Obama’s use of executive actions to unilaterally enforce the policy.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio worked with senators from both parties to develop a comprehensive plan in 2013 that would have legalized the status of many immigrant families. But Congress balked at the idea as tea party Republicans opposed the deal and Rubio has since backed away from his support.

Wisconsin fights back against ‘Citizens United’

Jan. 21 marked the fifth anniversary of Citizens United and Wisconsinites are fighting back against that awful U.S. Supreme Court decision as never before.

In the 5-4 decision, conservatives on the court ruled that corporations are persons and money is speech, and therefore corporations, unions and other associations can spend as much as they want on their candidates.

The results have been disastrous for our democracy. Outside spending in federal races quadrupled in 2012 to a staggering $1 billion. And get this: About 60 percent of that came from just 195 individuals and their spouses.

It didn’t even come from the top 1 percent. It came from the top 0.01 percent.

This is not democracy. This is plutocracy.

Here in Wisconsin, we’ve seen the pernicious effect of Citizens United as the Koch brothers have spent $5.5 million in our state, not only helping Scott Walker but knocking out two Kenosha school board members.

The school privatizers spent $850,000 to elect Republicans to the state Legislature last fall.

And mining company Gogebic Taconite sent $700,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin during the recalls. It was a good investment, since the Republicans subsequently rammed through a bill that was partially written by GTac and gave the company all it wanted.

This is blatant corruption. We all pay the price when the environment that we treasure gets wrecked, when our public schools get destroyed and when unions get busted — pushing down wages and workplace safety.

There’s a scene in the documentary As Goes Janesville in which Diane Hendricks, the billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply in Beloit, urged Walker to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state. She gave the Republican Party of Wisconsin $1 million last fall after Judge Rudolph Randa, relying on Citizens United, threw out the $10,000 limit that any individual could give in one political season. Randa’s decision also prompted a liberal Milwaukee philanthropist to give $1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Citizens United has reduced the vast majority of Americans to mere bystanders.

But Wisconsinites are not standing for it. In 54 villages, towns, cities and counties, they have voted by overwhelming margins to overturn Citizens United and to amend the U.S. Constitution to state, unequivocally, that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.

From Douglas County to the city of Elkhorn, from Eau Claire County to the city of Waukesha, Wisconsinites have been rising up.

And we are not alone. Citizens have made this happen in about 600 places around the country, including 16 states.

Wisconsin has a chance to join that list of states.

Two weeks ago, state Assemblywoman Lisa Subeck introduced a bill to bring a statewide referendum to the people, asking Wisconsinites whether we want to amend the U.S. Constitution to get rid of the falsehoods that corporations are persons and money is speech.

As Subeck said, “The Supreme Court effectively sold our democracy to the highest bidder.”

We need to take our democracy off the auction block and return it to the people. Amending the U.S. Constitution is the way to go.

Matthew Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at wisdc.org.

Federal judge strikes down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 struck down Mississippi’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. The ruling on the Mississippi amendment was made public just hours after a federal judge struck down Arkansas’ ban.

“Judge Reeves’ ruling … affirms what we already know to be true — that all loving, committed Mississippi couples should have the right to marry,” said HRC Mississippi director Rob Hill. “However, there is still much to be done to advance equality here in the Magnolia State. For thousands of LGBT Mississippians, the reality remains that we risk being fired from over jobs, kicked out of our homes or refused service simply because of who we are and who we love — that’s not right. HRC Mississippi is here to ensure all Mississippians are treated with dignity and respect.”

The state can appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has two marriage equality cases pending before it, with oral arguments tentatively scheduled for early January.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan represented two plaintiff couples on behalf of Campaign for Southern Equality, arguing that Mississippi’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Kaplan successfully argued United States v. Windsor against the federal Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The court’s ruling in that case has been cited in every state and federal court decision striking down state marriage bans since. 

Another case challenging the state marriage ban filed in state court — Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon — is on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court after a judge denied a same-sex couple’s divorce petition, citing the state’s ban on recognition of out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples. 

The Supreme Court of the United States has pending before it marriage cases out of four states from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a three-judge panel of that court overturned lower court rulings that had found Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee’s same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

The Sixth Circuit ruling marked the first time a federal appeals court ruled in favor of state marriage bans. Previously the Supreme Court declined to take up challenges to rulings from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits, which all found state marriage bans unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the case on appeal to the Fifth Circuit out of Louisiana are appealing their case directly to the Supreme Court as well.

The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case or cases — if any — it chooses to hear on appeal, although the loss in the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, increasing the likelihood the Supreme Court takes up the issue of marriage.

State of Alaska defends ban on gay marriage

Citizens, not the courts, should decide whether the definition of marriage includes same-sex couples, the state of Alaska said in court papers filed late last week.

The state is defending in federal court an amendment to Alaska’s constitution that bans gay marriage.

In May, five same-sex couples — four married outside of Alaska and one unmarried couple — sued to overturn the ban approved by voters in 1998, saying it violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. 

In a filing on Sept. 26, attorneys for the state said citizens have a fundamental right to decide whether to make changes to important institutions through the democratic process.

“The State of Alaska does not dispute that the residents of individual states have the right to change their marriage laws. … However, the State urges that residents of Alaska possess the same fundamental right to retain the traditional definition of marriage. This basic premise of democratic government should not be usurped by the judiciary absent compelling circumstances which the State respectfully urges are not present in this case,” the filing states.

The attorneys said that allowing Alaska residents to decide whether to keep the traditional definition of marriage, of being between one man and one woman, “serves the important governmental interests of supporting the democratic form of government.”

The attorneys said there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the due-process clause of the U.S. Constitution. The state also argues that Alaska laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states or countries do not violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The state said recent court decisions across the country in support of gay marriage don’t point to a foregone conclusion in this case but to intervention by some courts into a law-making process that should be reserved for the people.

Oral arguments in the case have been set for next month.

Since last summer and the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on same-sex marriage, there have been more than 40 advances for marriage equality in the courts and only a few losses for equality advocates.

ACLU sues on behalf of married same-sex couples in Wisconsin

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sued on Sept. 17 on behalf of gays and lesbians who have married in the state but whose marriages are being denied recognition.

In early June, after a federal judge ruled against Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, more than 500 couples married, with a majority of Wisconsin counties issuing licenses.

But the window on weddings closed when Republican Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. van Hollen went to the federal appeals court, which has since also ruled that the state ban is unconstitutional.

Still, gay couples in Wisconsin have been waiting in limbo — for news that the federal government will recognize their marriages, and new developments in the state situation.

On Sept. 17, the ACLU of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples and held a news conference in Milwaukee on the matter.

“Our clients have married in Wisconsin and that isn’t something the state can take away from them or refuse to recognize,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The state of Wisconsin has placed hundreds of same-sex couples, including our clients, in an untenable position of not knowing if their marriages will be respected and recognized or simply ignored.”

Referring to U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, Dupuis said in a news release, “Even if Judge Crabb’s stay means that for a while no more same-sex couples can marry, the Constitution does not allow the state to undo or ignore the marriages that already took place.”

The initial marriage equality case that resulted in the victories for gay couples at the federal district and appellate levels is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, along with cases from Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

One of the plaintiffs in the newest case, Bloechi-Karlen v. Walker, said is Stacie Christian. She said, “Julie and I enjoyed one of the greatest moments of our lives the day our state granted us the same freedom to marry as any other loving couple. We made a lifetime commitment to each other 21 years ago, affirmed our marriage four years ago through our church and again made a lifetime commitment to each other on the courthouse lawn on June 9 — one that is about stability, responsibility and building our family. We hope that those vows on June 9 will soon be as honored by our state as they are by us.”

The news conference took place at Plymouth Church UCC in Milwaukee.

The plaintiffs include:  Kiersten and Angie Bloechl-Karlsen,  Jim and Alex Langreder,  Nathan Walker and Lee Laufer. And Stacie Christian and Julie Tetzlaff.

On the Web…

The case details can be found at https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/bloechl-karlsen-v-walker.

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Florida Supreme Court asked to decide marriage equality case

Florida’s highest court is being asked to decide whether or not the state’s ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

In an unusual decision, the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal on Aug. 27 asked the Florida Supreme Court to settle the question due to “great public importance.” If the high court takes up the case, it could result in having the issue settled before the U.S. Supreme Court acts.

The ruling is connected to a Hillsborough County divorce case involving a same-sex couple who had been married in Massachusetts but since relocated to the Tampa area. Their petition to dissolve their marriage was rejected by a Florida judge who noted that state law does not recognize gay marriage.

“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” states the unsigned opinion. “And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”

A panel of judges with the Lakeland based appeals court earlier this summer rejected a request to forward the case up the state Supreme Court. But that ruling was overturned in a 10-3 decision by the entire appeals court.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked judges to stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage. But her request has not been ruled on yet. Bondi’s office was not involved in the Hillsborough County case, but a spokeswoman said the ruling is being reviewed now by the attorney general.

Voters approved Florida’s ban in 2008.

But judges in four Florida counties – Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward- have overturned the ban. Last week a federal judge also overturned the ban. No marriage licenses have been issued so far as the cases have either been appealed or judges have issued a stay to delay the effect of the ruling.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state same-sex marriage restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Federal judge rules against Florida’s ban on gay marriage

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle on Aug. 21 ruled that Florida’s amendment banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional.

In Brenner v. Scott, attorneys sued the state on behalf of same-sex couples who argue that Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. Florida voters approved the  state constitutional amendment in 2008.

Hinkle, appointed by Bill Clinton, said the state ban violates federal guarantees of Equal Protection and Due Process.

Hinkle said, “Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.”

He also wrote, “When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The judge stayed his ruling pending appeal, but according to the Human Rights Campaign he ordered the state to immediately recognize the marriage of a woman whose wife died and who wishes to be listed as the legal spouse on her deceased wife’s death certificate.

In a news release, HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow said, “Florida’s committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the right to legally marry in the state they call home. Judge Hinkle’s ruling today is consistent with 20 other consecutive federal court decisions over the last year that have said state bans on marriage equality violate the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution. These discriminatory bans only serve to harm LGBT families, and they should be erased from our nation’s laws once and for all.”

There have been multiple rulings against Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages at the state level as well.

“Today is the fifth consecutive victory in Florida and leaves no doubt that this ban serves no purpose but to harm gay couples and their children,” said Nadine Smith of Equality Florida Instituter. “We applaud Judge Hinkle for his decision and we call on Gov. (Rick) Scott to lead where Attorney General Pam Bondi has failed.”

She continued, “Florida put this discriminatory ban in place and Florida should end it. Our families have waited too long already. We call on Gov. Scott to join us in urging the Florida Supreme Court to take up this issue immediately.”

In total, 38 rulings since last year’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor have found that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional.