Tag Archives: amendment

Supreme Court blocks same-sex marriages in Virginia

The U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 20 granted an emergency request to stay an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which said that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Some gay couples were preparing to marry at 8 a.m. on Aug. 21, but the stay from the Supreme Court means those weddings won’t be taking place pending further appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked by

The Commonwealth of Virginia has asked the Supreme Court to consider Virginia’s case — brought by the same legal team that successfully challenged California’s anti-gay marriage amendment — in its next term. The state filed its petition for writ of certiorari, or request for review, on Aug. 8.

Given the stay, the attorneys for the same-sex couples suing in Virginia for the right to marry also now want the Supreme Court to take up the case.

“Never before have federal courts across this country so swiftly, convincingly and unanimously come to the same conclusion on an imperative constitutional question as they have when presented with the issue of marriage equality,” said lead co-counsel David Boies . “The federal court system agrees, the majority of Americans agree and the president of the United States agrees that it is time this country treats its same-sex couples and their children just the same as all other loving families. We are confident that when the Supreme Court reviews the Bostic case, it too will agree and end the flagrant injustice of segregating Americans based on sexual orientation.”

Tim Bostic, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said he and his partner are disappointed they must wait to wed. However, he added, “We feel that this case deserves to be heard by the Supreme Court and be finally decided for all Americans. There are thousands of couples just like us in 30 other states waiting to get married. It is time for all Americans to be able to enjoy the freedom to marry, no matter what state they live in.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the primary sponsor of the case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last July and maintains that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In mid-February, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that all laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying in Virginia are unconstitutional, and recognized that they single out gay and lesbian Virginians for a disfavored legal status, thereby creating a category of “second-class citizens.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed that ruling on July 28.

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage coalition launches

A new statewide coalition aimed at securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin launched on Aug. 7, less than 20 days before a federal appeals court will hear arguments on the issue.

The Wisconsin Unites for Marriage Coalition launched as a partnership of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin and Freedom to Marry.

The coalition representatives vowed an unprecedented grassroots public education campaign with the goal of winning the freedom to marry for all couples.

Launch celebrations were taking place on Aug. 7 in Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, with religious leaders, civil rights advocates, attorneys and also the couples who are suing the state for marriage equality.

In a news release, Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin said, “This is the first time since the 2006 campaign against the constitutional amendment that we have had a diverse statewide coalition working together to achieve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. We are thrilled to join forces with Wisconsin’s leaders in the business and faith communities, and state and national partners in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, as we move Wisconsin forward together.”

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU Wisconsin, added, “Wisconsin Unites for Marriage gives a voice to couples, their friends and families, and everyone committed to freedom and equality. You don’t have to be a plaintiff or lawyer to be heard as we make history together.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU national are representing same-sex couples demanding the right to marry in the state or recognition of their out-of-state marriages. They are challenging the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages that was approved by voters in 2006.

In early June, a federal district judge in Madison overturned the amendment, a decision that for a few days cleared the way for more than 500 gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state.

The weddings ended as Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is not seeking re-election in November, pursued an appeal.

That appeal is now before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, with oral argument set for Aug. 26.

“My partner Katy and I have been together for over 25 years and want very much to get married. To be honest, before we won the case in federal court, we didn’t realize how much marriage meant – mostly because we could never let ourselves imagine it, because it wasn’t a reality for us for so many years,” said Judi Trampf, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Her partner, Katy Heyning, added, “But now more than ever, I think about what would happen if something happened to Judi. In the eyes of the legal system, we’d be little more than two people who knew each other. After 25 years of commitment, living together and loving each other – we’d be nothing.”

As the coalition was announced to the public, its website went live at www.wisconsinunites.org. 

The site invites people to share their marriage equality stories, offers freedom to marry facts and announces opportunities to volunteer.

Gay couple asks Florida judge to lift stay, allow them to marry

Attorneys for a gay couple in the Florida Keys filed a motion on July 21 asking Circuit Judge Luis Garcia to lift the automatic stay triggered by the appeal filed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Garcia, on July 17, ruled that the state amendment against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered the Monroe County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples but he placed a stay on the order until July 22.

Since the judge’s ruling, Bondi, a Republican, appealed the order.

But the same-sex couple, their attorney and activists in the state argue the stay should be lifted and gay couples should be allowed to marry.

“In his ruling, Judge Luis Garcia confirmed that every single day these couples are denied marriage licenses, their constitutional rights are violated, and they suffer harms and risk of harms, for which they can never be compensated,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida. “Even Attorney General Pam Bondi cannot dispute the fact that allowing these couples to marry right now harms no one. Our families have waited far too long already, and we hope Judge Garcia will lift the stay so that couples can begin obtaining marriage licenses in Monroe County immediately.”

Monroe County consists mostly of the Keys.

There are several cases challenging Florida’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Monroe County case was brought by Key West residents Aaron Hunstman and William Lee Jones. They are represented by Bernadette Restivo of the law firm Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Farinas LLC.

U.S. appeals court rules for marriage equality in Oklahoma case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on July 18 upheld the decision from U.S. District Judge Terence Kern that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment barring marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution.

“Today’s decision means that my husband and I can travel ‘home’ and know that our family will be treated with the same fairness and dignity as any other married couple,” said Don Howerton a board member of Marriage Equality USA as he cheered the ruling. “Oklahoma is a big part of who I am — I was born and raised there, went to the University of Oklahoma, and have many friends and family there.” 

The 2-1 decision from the panel was written by Judge Carlos Lucero, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. The judges ruled, “State bans on the licensing of same-sex marriage significantly burden the fundamental right to marry.”

Earlier this summer, the same panel of judges ruled for marriage equality in a case from Utah, Kitchen v. Herbert, which is on track to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oklahoma can either request a review before the full bench of the Tenth Circuit, it can appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court or it can follow the ruling.

The Oklahoma case involves two couples — Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton — who in November 2004 sued the state for enforcing an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits the state from performing or recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. The suit also initially challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key sections of that law last summer.

The federal district court ruled in favor of the couples in mid-January. Soon after that, the state appealed.

The plaintiffs in Bishop v. Smith are represented by attorneys from Holladay & Chilton PLLC, Jennings Cook & Teague PC, Studebaker & Worley PLLC, and Phillip Craig Bailey.

Responding to the news, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “For years, the plaintiffs in this case and their attorneys have argued on behalf of equality and justice in the court room. Today’s victory brings us ever closer to the day when all committed and loving gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry the person they love, regardless of what state they call home.”

He added, “There’s no question that the U.S. Supreme Court must take up the issue to decide once and for all whether or not states can continue to treat committed and loving gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens.”

There are more than 70 court cases challenging marriage bans across the country. Cases from 11 states are currently pending before five federal appeals court. Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 17 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.

Cases pending before federal appeals courts:

• Bostic v. Schaefer, Virginia [Arguments at the Fourth Circuit heard May 13]

• DeLeon v. Perry, Texas [Argument date at the Fifth Circuit not set]

• Tanco v. Haslam, Tennessee [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for Aug. 6]

• Bourke vs. Beshear, Kentucky [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for Aug. 6]

• Obergefell v. Kasich, Ohio [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for Aug. 6]

• Henry v. Himes, Ohio [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for Aug. 6]

• DeBoer v. Snyder, Michigan [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for Aug. 6]

• Wolf v. Walker, Wisconsin [Arguments at the Seventh Circuit set for Aug. 13]

• Baskin v. Bogan, Indiana [Arguments at the Seventh Circuit set for Aug. 13]

• Sevcik v. Sandoval, Nevada [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for Sept. 8

• Latta v. Otter, Idaho [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for Sept. 8]

• Jackson v. Abercrombie, Hawaii [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for Sept. 8]

Cases petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court:

• Kitchen v. Herbert, Utah [Tenth Circuit struck down marriage ban June 25]

Federal judge rules again for marriage equality in Kentucky

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II on July 1 struck down Kentucky’s prohibition on the performance of marriages between same-sex couples.

It was Heyburn’s second ruling for marriage equality.

The latest decision came in Love v. Beshear. Two same-sex couples sued, arguing that Kentucky’s refusal to grant them marriage licenses violates the U.S. Constitution.

In his ruling, Heyburn wrote, “Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree. Thus, same-sex couples’ right to marry seems to be a uniquely ‘free’ constitutional right.” 

He has issued a stay, anticipating the state will appeal to the Sixth Circuit.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said, “It seems that not a day goes by where we don’t see clear evidence of America’s untempered momentum toward equality. Today’s marriage ruling makes clear that Kentucky should not be denying committed and loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. We congratulate the plaintiffs and their attorneys and thank them for making today’s victory possible.”

In February, Heyburn ruled that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection clause and that Kentucky cannot refuse to recognize valid same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

The judge, appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, sided with four plaintiff couples who had married elsewhere before seeking state recognition in Kentucky.

The Bourke case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and argument has been set for Aug. 6.

There are more than 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 states and Puerto Rico.

As of July 1, six federal appeals courts are presiding over 11 marriage equality cases.

How did your representative vote on medical marijuana amendment?

The 219-189 roll call on May 30 by which the House agreed to an amendment that blocks the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana.

A “yes” vote is a vote to adopt the amendment as part of a spending bill for the Justice Department.

Voting yes were 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

Voting no were 17 Democrats and 172 Republicans.

X denotes those not voting.

There are 3 vacancies in the 435-member House.

WISCONSIN

Democrats – Kind, Y; Moore, Y; Pocan, Y.

Republicans – Duffy, N; Petri, Y; Ribble, Y; Ryan, N; Sensenbrenner, N.

ALABAMA

Democrats – Sewell, N.

Republicans – Aderholt, N; Bachus, Y; Brooks, Y; Byrne, N; Roby, N; Rogers, Y.

ALASKA

Republicans – Young, Y.

ARIZONA

Democrats – Barber, Y; Grijalva, Y; Kirkpatrick, Y; Pastor, Y; Sinema, Y.

Republicans – Franks, N; Gosar, N; Salmon, N; Schweikert, Y.

ARKANSAS

Republicans – Cotton, N; Crawford, N; Griffin, N; Womack, N.

CALIFORNIA

Democrats – Bass, N; Becerra, Y; Bera, Y; Brownley, Y; Capps, Y; Cardenas, Y; Chu, Y; Costa, Y; Davis, Y; Eshoo, Y; Farr, Y; Garamendi, Y; Hahn, Y; Honda, Y; Huffman, Y; Lee, Y; Lofgren, Y; Lowenthal, Y; Matsui, Y; McNerney, Y; Miller, George, Y; Napolitano, Y; Negrete McLeod, Y; Pelosi, Y; Peters, Y; Roybal-Allard, Y; Ruiz, Y; Sanchez, Linda T., Y; Sanchez, Loretta, Y; Schiff, Y; Sherman, Y; Speier, Y; Swalwell, Y; Takano, Y; Thompson, Y; Vargas, Y; Waters, X; Waxman, X.

Republicans – Calvert, N; Campbell, X; Cook, N; Denham, N; Hunter, Y; Issa, N; LaMalfa, N; McCarthy, N; McClintock, Y; McKeon, N; Miller, Gary, X; Nunes, N; Rohrabacher, Y; Royce, N; Valadao, N.

COLORADO

Democrats – DeGette, Y; Perlmutter, Y; Polis, Y.

Republicans – Coffman, Y; Gardner, N; Lamborn, N; Tipton, N.

CONNECTICUT

Democrats – Courtney, Y; DeLauro, Y; Esty, Y; Himes, Y; Larson, Y.

DELAWARE

Democrats – Carney, Y.

FLORIDA

Democrats – Brown, Y; Castor, Y; Deutch, Y; Frankel, Y; Garcia, Y; Grayson, Y; Hastings, X; Murphy, Y; Wasserman Schultz, N; Wilson, N.

Republicans – Bilirakis, N; Buchanan, N; Crenshaw, N; DeSantis, Y; Diaz-Balart, N; Jolly, N; Mica, N; Miller, N; Nugent, N; Posey, N; Rooney, N; Ros-Lehtinen, X; Ross, N; Southerland, N; Webster, N; Yoho, Y.

GEORGIA

Democrats – Barrow, N; Bishop, Y; Johnson, Y; Lewis, X; Scott, David, Y.

Republicans – Broun, Y; Collins, N; Gingrey, N; Graves, Y; Kingston, N; Price, N; Scott, Austin, N; Westmoreland, Y; Woodall, Y.

HAWAII

Democrats – Gabbard, Y; Hanabusa, Y.

IDAHO

Republicans – Labrador, N; Simpson, N.

ILLINOIS

Democrats – Bustos, Y; Davis, Danny, Y; Duckworth, Y; Enyart, Y; Foster, Y; Gutierrez, Y; Kelly, Y; Lipinski, N; Quigley, Y; Rush, Y; Schakowsky, Y; Schneider, Y.

Republicans – Davis, Rodney, Y; Hultgren, N; Kinzinger, N; Roskam, N; Schock, Y; Shimkus, N.

INDIANA

Democrats – Carson, Y; Visclosky, Y.

Republicans – Brooks, N; Bucshon, N; Messer, N; Rokita, N; Stutzman, N; Walorski, N; Young, Y.

IOWA

Democrats – Braley, Y; Loebsack, Y.

Republicans – King, N; Latham, N.

KANSAS

Republicans – Huelskamp, N; Jenkins, N; Pompeo, N; Yoder, N.

KENTUCKY

Democrats – Yarmuth, Y.

Republicans – Barr, N; Guthrie, N; Massie, Y; Rogers, N; Whitfield, N.

LOUISIANA

Democrats – Richmond, Y.

Republicans – Boustany, N; Cassidy, N; Fleming, N; McAllister, N; Scalise, N.

MAINE

Democrats – Michaud, Y; Pingree, Y.

MARYLAND

Democrats – Cummings, Y; Delaney, Y; Edwards, Y; Hoyer, Y; Ruppersberger, Y; Sarbanes, Y; Van Hollen, Y.

Republicans – Harris, N.

MASSACHUSETTS

Democrats – Capuano, Y; Clark, Y; Keating, N; Kennedy, N; Lynch, Y; McGovern, Y; Neal, Y; Tierney, Y; Tsongas, Y.

MICHIGAN

Democrats – Conyers, Y; Dingell, X; Kildee, Y; Levin, N; Peters, Y.

Republicans – Amash, Y; Benishek, X; Bentivolio, Y; Camp, N; Huizenga, N; Miller, N; Rogers, N; Upton, Y; Walberg, N.

MINNESOTA

Democrats – Ellison, Y; McCollum, Y; Nolan, Y; Peterson, N; Walz, Y.

Republicans – Bachmann, N; Kline, N; Paulsen, N.

MISSISSIPPI

Democrats – Thompson, Y.

Republicans – Harper, N; Nunnelee, N; Palazzo, X.

MISSOURI

Democrats – Clay, X; Cleaver, X.

Republicans – Graves, N; Hartzler, X; Long, N; Luetkemeyer, Y; Smith, N; Wagner, N.

MONTANA

Republicans – Daines, Y.

NEBRASKA

Republicans – Fortenberry, N; Smith, N; Terry, N.

NEVADA

Democrats – Horsford, Y; Titus, Y.

Republicans – Amodei, Y; Heck, Y.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Democrats – Kuster, Y; Shea-Porter, Y.

NEW JERSEY

Democrats – Holt, Y; Pallone, Y; Pascrell, Y; Payne, Y; Sires, Y.

Republicans – Frelinghuysen, N; Garrett, Y; Lance, N; LoBiondo, Y; Runyan, Y; Smith, N.

NEW MEXICO

Democrats – Lujan Grisham, Y; Lujan, Ben Ray, Y.

Republicans – Pearce, N.

NEW YORK

Democrats – Bishop, Y; Clarke, Y; Crowley, Y; Engel, Y; Higgins, Y; Israel, Y; Jeffries, Y; Lowey, Y; Maffei, Y; Maloney, Carolyn, Y; Maloney, Sean, Y; McCarthy, X; Meeks, Y; Meng, Y; Nadler, Y; Owens, Y; Rangel, X; Serrano, Y; Slaughter, X; Tonko, Y; Velazquez, Y.

Republicans – Collins, Y; Gibson, N; Grimm, N; Hanna, Y; King, N; Reed, Y.

NORTH CAROLINA

Democrats – Butterfield, Y; McIntyre, N; Price, Y.

Republicans – Coble, N; Ellmers, Y; Foxx, N; Holding, N; Hudson, N; Jones, Y; McHenry, N; Meadows, N; Pittenger, N.

NORTH DAKOTA

Republicans – Cramer, X.

OHIO

Democrats – Beatty, Y; Fudge, Y; Kaptur, Y; Ryan, Y.

Republicans – Boehner, X (the speaker by tradition often does not vote); Chabot, N; Gibbs, N; Johnson, N; Jordan, N; Joyce, Y; Latta, N; Renacci, N; Stivers, N; Tiberi, N; Turner, N; Wenstrup, N.

OKLAHOMA

Republicans – Bridenstine, N; Cole, N; Lankford, X; Lucas, N; Mullin, N.

OREGON

Democrats – Blumenauer, Y; Bonamici, Y; DeFazio, Y; Schrader, Y.

Republicans – Walden, Y.

PENNSYLVANIA

Democrats – Brady, Y; Cartwright, Y; Doyle, Y; Fattah, Y; Schwartz, Y.

Republicans – Barletta, N; Dent, N; Fitzpatrick, N; Gerlach, N; Kelly, N; Marino, N; Meehan, N; Murphy, N; Perry, Y; Pitts, N; Rothfus, N; Shuster, X; Thompson, N.

RHODE ISLAND

Democrats – Cicilline, Y; Langevin, Y.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Democrats – Clyburn, Y.

Republicans – Duncan, Y; Gowdy, N; Mulvaney, Y; Rice, Y; Sanford, Y; Wilson, N.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Republicans – Noem, N.

TENNESSEE

Democrats – Cohen, Y; Cooper, N.

Republicans – Black, N; Blackburn, N; DesJarlais, N; Duncan, N; Fincher, N; Fleischmann, N; Roe, N.

TEXAS

Democrats – Castro, Y; Cuellar, N; Doggett, Y; Gallego, N; Green, Al, X; Green, Gene, Y; Hinojosa, N; Jackson Lee, Y; Johnson, E. B., Y; O’Rourke, Y; Veasey, Y; Vela, X.

Republicans – Barton, N; Brady, N; Burgess, N; Carter, N; Conaway, N; Culberson, N; Farenthold, N; Flores, N; Gohmert, N; Granger, N; Hall, N; Hensarling, N; Johnson, Sam, N; Marchant, N; McCaul, N; Neugebauer, N; Olson, N; Poe, N; Sessions, N; Smith, N; Stockman, Y; Thornberry, N; Weber, N; Williams, N.

UTAH

Democrats – Matheson, N.

Republicans – Bishop, Y; Chaffetz, X; Stewart, Y.

VERMONT

Democrats – Welch, Y.

VIRGINIA

Democrats – Connolly, Y; Moran, Y; Scott, Y.

Republicans – Cantor, N; Forbes, N; Goodlatte, N; Griffith, N; Hurt, N; Rigell, Y; Wittman, N; Wolf, N.

WASHINGTON

Democrats – DelBene, Y; Heck, Y; Kilmer, Y; Larsen, Y; McDermott, Y; Smith, Y.

Republicans – Hastings, Y; Herrera Beutler, N; McMorris Rodgers, N; Reichert, N.

WEST VIRGINIA

Democrats – Rahall, N.

Republicans – Capito, X; McKinley, N.

WYOMING

Republicans – Lummis, Y.

UPDATED: Right-wing group denied emergency stay to block gay marriage in Oregon

The right-wing National Organization for Marriage on May 19 filed an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay any gay marriage proceedings in Oregon. And not long after the filing, the motion was denied.

A federal judge has just ruled for marriage equality, and NOM had wanted to get in line for a stay.

NOM wanted to argue that it should be allowed to intervene in the federal case. NOM also wanted the appeals court to strike down any ruling in favor of marriage equality in Oregon.

In a news release, NOM president Brian S. Brown, said the case was an “ugly example” of cooperation between Oregon’s attorney general and “the gay marriage lobby, both of whom want to redefine marriage in contravention of the overwhelming decision of the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The people of Oregon are entitled to a defense of their decision on marriage rather than being abandoned in court.”

In a series of rulings this past year, judges in the federal and state courts have overturned state measures prohibiting same-sex marriage and last summer the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on same-sex marriage in the so-called Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

NOM alleged in its motion with the appeals court that government clerks and business people will “will face injury if marriage is redefined.”

Meanwhile, in Maine, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices staff issued a report concluding that NOM intentionally violated state law by failing to register or report its activities despite playing a central role in co-managing and funding a $3 million marriage referendum campaign in 2009.

The report said, “The staff views NOM’s failure to register and file financial reports as a significant violation of law. Maine people deserve to know who is funding political campaigns to influence their vote.” 

The report recommends civil penalties against NOM totaling $50,250 and that NOM be directed to register as a ballot question committee and file campaign finance reports reflecting its contributions and expenditures in support of the 2009 Maine referendum.

The commission will vote on the staff recommendation at its meeting on May 28.

“This detailed investigative report once and for all exposes NOM’s fundamental mission to secretly and illegally funnel contributions from a few large unnamed donors to its extreme political causes,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “NOM was formed to be an illegal pass-through for a few secret donors to fund discrimination against LGBT Americans. Maine’s regulators have caught on and said enough is enough.”

Over the past four years, following a complaint by Fred Karger, the Maine commission conducted the most detailed investigation of NOM’s activities to date.

The investigation included deposing Brown and subpoenaing documents. The investigation was significantly delayed by a series of lawsuits initiated by NOM intended to stonewall the investigation.

NOM appealed unsuccessfully all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in its effort to evade Maine’s public disclosure law.    

Among other findings, the 37-page investigative report found:

• NOM played the critical leadership role in the 2009 referendum campaign. Political consultants close to NOM had significant leadership positions within the campaign and NOM was by far the largest donor. The commission determined that NOM failed to tell the truth when it stated that it made no expenditures to promote the referendum other than by monetary contributions.

• NOM promised its donors anonymity if they gave directly to NOM. According to the report, “NOM intentionally set up its fundraising strategy to avoid donor disclosure laws.”

• NOM sent out a series of emails specifically soliciting contributions from Maine and received contributions sufficient to require it to register as a ballot question committee.

NOM also qualified as a ballot question committee through contributions from major donors. The report noted that in 2009, NOM raised 75 percent of its revenue from 14 major donors. Contrary to NOM’s representations, the report found that “the basic elements of NOM’s communications are known, and they indicate that NOM told major donors in 2009 about NOM’s activities in support of the Maine referendum and NOM’s specific commitment to financially support the Maine referendum.”

NOM failed to disclose these donors in accordance with state law.

5 couples sue for marriage equality in Alaska

Five gay couples filed a lawsuit on May 12 challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

The Alaska lawsuit, filed in federal court in Anchorage, lists as plaintiffs four couples who were married outside Alaska and one unmarried couple. It alleges that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks to bar enforcement of Alaska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. It also calls for barring enforcement of any state laws that refuse to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states or countries or that prevent unmarried gay couples from marrying.

Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. But in the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of federal benefits. Federal courts also have struck down state constitutional bans in a number of states, though appeals were pending in a number of cases. States such as Illinois and Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage.

An attorney for the couples, Caitlin Shortell, said lawsuits have been filed in almost every state with bans on same-sex marriage. A lawsuit in Alaska was seen by those involved as “necessary and important,” Shortell said.

Another attorney, Heather Gardner, said in a statement that under current state law, “a couple who marries in Seattle and returns home to Alaska are married in the eyes of the law when their plane lifts off from SeaTac (airport) but are legal strangers when the flight touches down in Alaska. No Alaskan is a second-class citizen.”

The plaintiffs are Matthew Hamby and Christopher Shelden; Christina LaBorde and Susan Tow; Sean Egan and David Robinson; Tracey Wiese and Katrina Cortez; and Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson. Lamb and Pearson are unmarried.

Hamby, in a statement, said he and his husband – who, according to the lawsuit were married in Canada in 2008 and renewed their vows in Utah last year – are taking a stand “because marriage should be available to all loving couples. It’s important to us that our family is recognized by the State of Alaska and that we have the same rights and privileges as others.”

Defendants include Gov. Sean Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who earlier this year told The Associated Press he would continue to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even as federal courts around the country strike down similar bans.

The Alaska lawsuit was filed three days after a county circuit judge in Arkansas late Friday tossed out the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, along with a 1997 state law. That state’s attorney general filed paperwork Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban.

Geraghty said he would not make his decisions based on federal district court decisions that still must be reviewed by appellate courts and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, which he expects will ultimately weigh in on the issue.

“Would everybody vote the same way today? Who knows? But it’s on the books,” Geraghty told the AP in February. He added: “Eventually, as I said, one day there will be guidance. I’m sure one day there will be a decision one way or the other. And when that happens, obviously we will comply with the decision.”

A Parnell spokeswoman said by email late Friday afternoon that the governor’s office had not been served with the lawsuit and the Department of Law would need time to review any it.

A proposal to strike the same-sex marriage ban from Alaska’s constitution, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Hollis French, D-Anchorage, during the last legislative session, went nowhere. Republicans control both the Alaska House and Senate.

North Carolina candidate to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite ban

The apparent winner of a register of deeds seat in North Carolina says he’ll sign same-sex marriage licenses despite a state ban against gay unions.

Former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton narrowly won a Democratic primary Tuesday for the Orange County register of deeds and it appears that he will have no opposition in the general election in November.

Chilton said he doesn’t see how North Carolina’s law banning gay marriage will survive constitutional analysis, especially since federal courts have ruled against similar bans in other states.

“The upshot of all those is that if a state statute or a state constitutional provision or even a federal statute is written and has no purpose other than to put down, to denigrate politically unpopular groups, such as gays and lesbians, then it is unconstitutional,” Chilton said, adding that the oath of office he’ll have to take says he must abide by the U.S. Constitution in spite of state law.

“So that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

Chilton is not alone in his stance.

Last October, the register of deeds for Buncombe County in western North Carolina, Drew Reisinger, became one of the first officials in the South to accept marriage-license applications from same-sex couples. At the time, he said he believed the state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. State officials have said his office can’t issue the licenses.

Attorney General Roy Cooper is responsible for upholding the state’s laws. He declined to comment Wednesday on Chilton’s pledge. In the past Cooper has said he will uphold the gay marriage ban, even though he personally supports gay marriage.

Chilton said if a court were to order him to stop issuing gay-marriage licenses, he would.

“At this point, no court has ever ruled one way or another … and until they do, those of us in North Carolina government are forced to simply apply the decisions that have been made thus far,” he said. “I think those who are defying what I’m saying are sticking their fingers in their ears and refusing to listen.”

But supporters of the state law banning gay marriage say Chilton is wrong.

“You don’t change the law by breaking the law,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition, a private organization that led groups which backed passage of the law. “It’s not up to him to be judge and jury about the law. It’s up to him to carry out the law.”

Federal judge denies state’s request to stay Wisconsin marriage case

A federal judge this week denied a motion by the state of Wisconsin to stay the ACLU case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison on March 24 denied the motion for a stay, finding that a delay in the case would serve no purpose.

The state — as the defendant in the lawsuit — had asked the federal court to stay the case until the Wisconsin Supreme Court issues a ruling in a dispute over the state’s domestic partner registry, which provides same-sex couples some limited marriage-like benefits.

The ACLU of Wisconsin and the national ACLU have sued the state to overturn the 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and bars same-sex couples from marrying in Wisconsin.

Same-sex couples can marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Gay couples can marry in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota and a federal judge recently ruled that Michigan’s anti-gay constitutional amendment is unconstitutional. That ruling is on appeal, but over the weekend several hundred same-sex couples married in Michigan.