Tag Archives: clerks

Judge says Florida clerks must issue marriage licenses to gay couples

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has issued an order clarifying that all Florida clerks should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the stay expires at the end of the day on Jan. 5.

Some clerks had indicated they would not issue licenses and others said they were uncertain whether they could issue licenses in Florida. At the same time, some Christian right groups in the state have been encouraging clerks to ignore the judicial order.

But Hinkle late this week explained that while his injunction applies only to the named defendants, because his Aug. 21 ruling held that the marriage ban is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He further advised that if any clerks do not follow the ruling, couples denied marriage licenses could intervene in the case to get injunctions against non-compliant clerks.

The court’s Aug. 21 ruling holding the marriage ban unconstitutional was the result of two cases — one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU of Florida on behalf of eight couples, a Fort Myers widow, and SAVE, South Florida’s largest LGBT rights organization; the other by Jacksonville attorneys William Sheppard and Sam Jacobson on behalf of two couples.

The Washington County Clerk of Court, named as a defendant in the case brought by Sheppard and Jacobson, filed a motion for clarification asking Judge Hinkle to clarify the scope of the injunction. Many Florida clerks of court had been waiting for the clarification provided by today’s order to determine whether they should prepare to issue marriage licenses when the stay on the injunction expires. 

Responding to today’s order ACLU of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney Daniel Tilley stated, “This is a wonderful development. Judge Hinkle has made clear that his ruling that declared Florida’s marriage ban unconstitutional means that all Florida clerks should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the stay expires at the end of the day on Jan. 5.

“Clerks who were waiting for clarification from the court as to their obligations now have that clarity and should prepare to issue marriage licenses to couples in their counties waiting to marry as soon as the stay expires. 

“We expect all clerks to respect the ruling.  But if not, we are committed to ensuring marriage equality in all 67 counties in Florida and we would like to hear from any couples that are wrongfully denied a license after the stay expires.

 ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon added, “This is a New Year’s Day present from federal judge Robert Hinkle – he has given Florida the roadmap to an orderly transition to being a state that treats all its people equally.

“We are thankful that Judge Hinkle agreed with us that the Constitution does not tolerate discrimination and that, beginning Tuesday January 6th, all clerks in Florida have an obligation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples requesting them.

Attorneys from the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida and Stephen F. Rosenthal of Podhurst Orseck, P.A. represent the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s marriage ban.
 

Uncertainty in Kansas as officials refuse to honor court orders on same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples in Kansas are eager to say “I do” in the exchange of wedding vows, but Kansas officials — from the state level to the local level — are saying we won’t to legal rulings to issue marriage licenses.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision late on Nov. 12 cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Kansas, but the court clerk in the most populous county won’t grant licenses to gay couples until a separate legal case is resolved before the state’s highest court.

And Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s determination to defend the state’s gay-marriage ban remains a roadblock to same-sex weddings. He has the backing of ultra-right Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican who pledged to work with Schmidt to preserve a provision in the state constitution against gay marriage that was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2005.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Kansas to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while the state fights the issue in court. Schmidt said that decision applies only in Douglas, a northeastern Kansas county, and Sedgwick, in south-central Kansas, where the court clerks are defendants. The American Civil Liberties Union contends the ruling applies in all 105 counties.

The legal situation in Kansas is complicated by another case before the Kansas Supreme Court, which Schmidt filed last month. He persuaded the Kansas court to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples, at least while his case is heard.

Marriage licenses in Kansas are issued by district court clerks’ offices after a mandatory three-day wait. In Johnson County, Court Clerk Sandra McCurdy said about 70 applications from same-sex couples are pending.

“Until I hear something from the Kansas Supreme Court, I’m not issuing any marriage licenses,” McCurdy said.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond, Virginia, law professor, said other clerks are likely to react the same way “out of an abundance of caution.”

The U.S. Supreme Court order was consistent with its handling of requests from other states seeking to preserve their bans while they appealed lower-court rulings favoring gays and lesbians.

However, Kansas’ emergency appeal was closely watched to see whether the court would change its practice following last week’s appellate ruling that upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Those cases now are headed to the Supreme Court, and the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear cases from three appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans. Kansas, South Carolina and Montana all have refused to allow gay couples to obtain marriages licenses despite rulings from federal appeals courts that oversee them.

Gay marriage is legal in 32 other states.

Schmidt filed his case with the Kansas Supreme Court after the chief judge in Johnson County responded to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court action by ordering licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. A lesbian couple received one and quickly wed, becoming the only known same-sex Kansas couple to do so.

Voters getting confusing, misleading messages about Wisconsin election

Wisconsin residents are receiving confusing messages by phone and in the mail about the election, according to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

The organization said that just last week some people received a Wisconsin voter registration form in the mail with their name and address already filled in. They were told to mail the form in to their municipal clerk, even though it was already too late for mailed registrations to be processed. Other people have reported receiving robocalls telling them to bring a photo ID to vote. This happened after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the voter ID law would not be implemented in this election.

“The groups responsible for these confusing messages are usually well-intentioned, but they are often national groups that do not understand how elections are administered in Wisconsin,” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. “Our best advice is to be wary of messages coming from groups you are not familiar with. The best sources to consult are your municipal clerk, the (state) Government Accountability Board or the League of Women Voters.”

Through Oct. 31, citizens may register to vote and/or cast an absentee ballot in person at their municipal clerk’s office or, in Milwaukee, at the Milwaukee Election Commission.

Although clerks may offer early voting from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday of this week, it is best to check with own your clerk to find out what hours are available in your community.

Registered voters are not required to show a photo ID in order to receive a regular ballot and have it counted, by order of the U.S. Supreme Court.

To check your registration status and polling place, and to fill out a registration form, go to the GAB’s My Vote Wisconsin website — myvote.wi.gov — or go to your clerk’s office. You will have to sign the form and bring it to your clerk by Oct. 31 or to your polling place on Election Day. You will have to provide proof of residence, such as a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, residential lease, utility bill or bank statement with your name and current address on it.

42 counties issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Wisconsin

Gay couples across Wisconsin rushed to wed on June 10, as more than half of the counties in the state began issuing licenses ahead of an expected hold on a ruling that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison struck down the ban on June 6 in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the prohibition. But she didn’t order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out. Instead, she asked the ACLU to submit a proposed order spelling out how the organization wants her decision implemented, which the ACLU did late on June 9.

For now, her stance has left county clerks to decide on their own whether they can legally issue licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison, the state’s liberal hubs, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the ruling. Together the counties issued 238 licenses on June 6-7.

At least 42 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 9, according to a canvass by The Associated Press. Clerks in a handful of counties did not answer phone calls. Many, but not all, also waived the state’s five-day waiting period.

Dozens of couples were initially refused licenses in Appleton, Green Bay and elsewhere on June 9 while county clerks in those communities sought advice from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Nearly 100 people at the Outagamie County Clerk’s office in Appleton objected when told they could not apply for licenses.

“We did tell them we weren’t leaving until licenses were issued,” said Kathy Flores, 47, of Appleton, who hopes to marry her partner, Ann Kendzierski.

Soon after, Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote told couples that he had advised Clerk Lori O’Bright to accept applications for licenses. Flores said later that she knew one couple who received a waiver because a parent was very ill.

Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said she decided to issue licenses to about 10 couples at her Green Bay office after failing to reach anyone in the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. She said she explained to couples the work would stop as soon as a court put the judge’s decision on hold.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack said her office west of Milwaukee began accepting applications for licenses about 9:30 a.m. Monday after she talked to a county attorney, saw what other counties were doing and spoke with waiting couples. Her office had issued about a half-dozen licenses in the first half-hour and expected perhaps two dozen or so more by the end of the day.

The Rock County clerk’s office in Janesville said it issued two licenses before noon on Monday. Kenosha County Clerk Mary T. Schuch-Krebs said she gave a license to one couple who told her they planned to marry that night.

“I don’t see anything that tells me otherwise,” she said.

St. Croix County deputy clerk Cheryl Harmon said a county attorney told her office in Hudson not to issue licenses until after Crabb’s June 16 deadline for the ACLU to submit its proposed order. La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said her county’s attorney initially gave the same advice but she issued a license later in the day, after Crabb refused Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for an emergency order halting the marriages.

But how long the couples’ window stays open is anyone’s guess.

Van Hollen also appealed Crabb’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked it to stop the ceremonies.

“There is absolutely no reason to allow Wisconsin’s county clerks to decide for themselves, on a county-by-county basis, who may and may not lawfully get married in this state,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Crabb said in rejecting Van Hollen’s request for an emergency hold that clerks weren’t issuing licenses because of anything she did. The judge said since she hasn’t yet issued an order it’s not clear what Van Hollen wants to stop. Once both sides have a chance to weigh in on the scope of the ACLU’s proposed order she’ll decide whether to put it on hold, she said.

The order would require state officials to let gay couples marry and to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. It also would guarantee gay couples who marry the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

The 7th Circuit, meanwhile, could rule at any moment.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said over the weekend he expected Crabb’s order to be put on hold. But he noted that more than 1,000 couples married in Utah before a hold was issued there, and a judge recently said those marriages were valid. That decision, like others related to gay marriage, has been appealed.

Given events around the nation, Tobias said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue next year.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will be fine for those couples,” Tobias said, “but we just don’t know right now.”

Hello June: All Illinois counties issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as of June 1

A few years into their relationship, Sabra Blumhorst and Chelsea Baker exchanged wedding vows, never mind the couple’s November nuptials weren’t legally recognized in Illinois. Civil unions didn’t interest the Carbondale couple, who long had hoped to have a legal marriage.

“I felt very strongly that if we can’t be married-married, I’m not going through the steps of the interim process of separate but equal,” Blumhorst, who now uses the surname of her five-year partner, said Wednesday. “I wanted complete equality, and we decided to wait.”

The waiting ends on June 1, when Illinois’ 102 counties may begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gay couples and gay-rights advocates across the state will mark the date with blessing ceremonies and group weddings, and several county clerks offices will make an exception and offer office hours that day for license-seekers unwilling to wait until Monday morning.

The moment is being heralded by many as another milestone in their decades-long quest for equal rights – even if the statewide rollout is a bit anticlimactic. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the gay-marriage law in November – shortly after the Blumhorst-Baker wedding, of sorts – and set June 1 as its effective date. But since a federal court ruling declared Illinois’ original ban unconstitutional in February, 16 counties have been issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Equality Illinois, a gay-rights advocacy group, estimates about 1,300 same-sex licenses have been issued statewide, more than 1,110 of those in Cook County.

Most of the state’s remaining 86 counties opted to wait until the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act officially takes effect, in some cases worried that early issuances could trigger lawsuits and perhaps cause legal problems for the couples.

Under February’s ruling, thousands of same-sex couples already in civil unions instantly became eligible to convert those into legal marriages, with the option of making their wedding date retroactive to when their civil union took place. By law, couples granted licenses must wait a day before actually following through with the wedding.

Montgomery County’s Sandy Leitheiser is among the handful of county clerks planning to give up their Sunday to process marriage-license applications. She said she didn’t know how many couples could show up in her largely rural, coal-mining, south-central Illinois county, where 11 couples are in civil unions.

“I’m here to uphold the law of Illinois,” Leitheiser said, “and if there’s a way to accommodate couples based on need and special circumstances, I’m available.”

Meanwhile, the clerk in Sangamon County – home to the capital city of Springfield – began issuing the licenses Friday.

“A lot of people have worked very hard for this day, and me and Chelsea are just pleased as punch,” said Blumhorst, a 31-year-old Carbondale coffeehouse barista who along with Baker, 24, expects to get a marriage license within days. “Others in the queer community think we should fight for other rights first. While I agree to that to an extent, I feel we should make strides where we can.”

In Belleville, Jerry Angevine has shared the past 25 years with fellow retiree Rick Carr, an Air Force veteran. Long having shelved any idea of getting a civil union, the men – both in their 60s with children from previous marriages – chose to wait until marriage became a right.

They got their marriage license Wednesday, Angevine said, giddy about their plans next Saturday for what he says will be their “low-key” wedding at their home.

“We did it our way,” he said. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re lower class. We have the right to be treated like everyone else. We are human beings.”

In Carbondale, retired social services worker Duane Cole and partner Joe Powers are ahead of the curve: They converted their 3-year-old civil union into a bonafide marriage in March. Doing so, they say, gives them more decision-making rights as a couple on such matters as inheritance and health care.

Their latest mission: Jointly refiling their federal tax returns from the past three years.

Legalizing gay marriage “is really a tremendous step forward,” Cole said. “Does that mean that from coast to coast and across the board, we’re going to experience equality? Of course not. That will take time.”

Lawyers for gay couples ask Arkansas Supreme Court to allow weddings to continue

Lawyers for gay couples asked the state’s highest court on May 13 to let same-sex weddings continue amid a fight over Arkansas’ gay marriage ban, while more than half the counties that had granted licenses to same-sex couples changed course.

Since a Pulaski County judge set aside Arkansas’ voter-approved ban late Friday, 400 gay couples have received marriage licenses, according to an Associated Press canvas of county clerks.

Only Pulaski and Washington counties issued licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday, after Carroll, Marion and Saline counties said they would wait until the case is fully resolved.

“If the time comes that we are informed that the licenses are to be resumed, we will do so immediately,” Carroll County Clerk Jamie Correia said in a statement.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to put on hold Judge Chris Piazza’s order rejecting the ban; lawyers for couples who challenged the ban replied Tuesday.

“The public has no interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws or in relegating same-sex couples and their families to a perpetual state of financial and legal vulnerability,” the attorneys argued in the brief.

The Supreme Court did not issue a ruling by the end of the day. Justices typically issue opinions on Thursdays but stray from their regular schedule on matters they deem urgent.

Clerks in Pulaski County, which contains the capital of Little Rock, and Washington County, home to Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, continued to issue additional licenses to gay couples Tuesday.

“I took an oath to support the constitution of the U.S. and the state of Arkansas and to essentially obey the law,” Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said. “If the Supreme Court stays the order, I will abide by the Supreme Court. I will obey the law.”

Pulaski County has issued 243 licenses, Washington County 122, Carroll 28, Saline six and Marion one.

McDaniel has said he supports same-sex marriage personally, but will defend Arkansas’ ban in court. McDaniel argues that Piazza’s decision has sown confusion across the state.

McDaniel also has notified the courts that he would appeal Piazza’s ruling outright; lawyers for the gay couples say that move was premature. According a filing late Tuesday, the couples’ lawyers say a final order and an answer on a separate state law governing clerks need to be addressed first.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who has said he opposes same-sex marriage, told reporters Tuesday he thinks it will ultimately be up to the Arkansas Supreme Court to decide whether the marriages are valid.

“I quit practicing law a number of years ago, so I think the Supreme Court will have to answer that question,” said Beebe, a Democrat and former attorney general.

Illinois attorney general green lights gay marriage across state

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on March 4 issued a letter that LGBT civil rights advocates say gives the green light for clerks in all counties to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Madigan, in the letter, said, “The protections guaranteed by the Constitution must exist without regard to county lines.”

The letter was sent in response to a question from Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean in Decatur about whether the federal court decision ordering Cook County Clerk David Orr to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples applies to counties in the rest of the state. It was shared with all 102 counties in the state.

Cook County began issued marriage licenses shortly after the ruling, and then, days later, same-sex couples began receiving licenses in Champaign County.

“We agree with the attorney general that the recent federal decision knocking down restrictions on marriage equality as unconstitutional should be the determining factor in clerks’ decisions to issue the licenses before the June 1 effective date of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

He added, “Already some 260 couples have obtained licenses in Cook County, according to David Orr’s office, and there are many thousands more around the state awaiting the time that they can have their love legally recognized.”

Madigan, a Democrat, said the courts’ decisions in marriage cases “should be persuasive” and should be given “full consideration” by the county clerks throughout Illinois.

If a lawsuit results, Madigan said, “We would argue that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Illinois lawmakers approved marriage equality legislation last fall. The effective date for the legislation was set to June 1.

Madigan endorsed the legislation. She also declined to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage in lawsuits filed in Cook County.

Utah holdouts now issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

The last of the Utah counties that were holding out on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples reversed course Thursday and decided to hand out licenses to all eligible applicants.

Officials for the four holdouts – Box Elder, Utah, Piute and San Juan counties – told The Associated Press they made the decision to offer licenses to same-sex couples.

County clerks say they had little choice after an appeals court on Tuesday declined to intervene and halt gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last week that Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, sending gay couples rushing to clerk offices for licenses.

The state plans to take its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court while it prepares an appeal of Shelby’s ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general’s office.

The request for an emergency stay from the Supreme Court would go to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, because she has jurisdiction of the appeals court in that region. She could answer the request herself or turn to the full court – legal experts think the second scenario more likely because of the high-profile nature of the case.

Bruckman has said counties could be held in contempt of federal court if they refused to comply.

The holdouts said they decided to obey Shelby’s ruling despite reservations and questions about their legal liability. Utah makes it a misdemeanor for county clerks to sanction a same-sex marriage.

San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson said “what finalized it for me” was Gov. Gary Herbert’s order to state agencies to comply with Shelby’s decision and change procedures for the delivery of state services. To that end, the Utah Department of Workforce Services is recognizing gay couples for food stamp and welfare benefits.

For Johnson, Herbert’s directive was the “final straw,” together with a refusal Tuesday by the Denver-based appeals court to stay Shelby’s decision pending an appeal from state lawyers.

Johnson said he felt like he was being dragged into granting marriage licenses against the wishes of voters who have kept him in office for 14 years.

“We have no choice,” Johnson said Thursday. “The scales have tipped. It’s not the way I want to see things go. But the law’s the law, and I accept it. It’s time.”

18 lawmakers sponsoring Wisconsin medical marijuana bill

Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Taylor and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach say their medical marijuana bill has 18 co-sponsors.

That number includes Taylor, a Democrat from Madison, and Erpenbach, a Democrat from Middleton.

Others who’ve signed on to push for passage of the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act include Reps. Chris Danou, D-Trempeleau; Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha); Terese Berceau, D-Madison; Fred Clark, D-Baraboo; Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay; Diane Hesselbein, D-Middleton; Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood; Sony Pope, D-Cross Plains; Melissa Sargent, D-Madison; Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point; Leon Young, D-Milwaukee and Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee.

In the state Senate, co-sponsors include Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee; Tim Cullen, D-Janesville; Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee and John Lehman, D-Racine.

The bill now goes to the Assembly and Senate clerks for bill numbers and committee assignments.

Gay marriage rights advanced in Brazil

Brazilian notary publics must register same-sex civil unions as marriages if the couple requests it, the country’s National Council of Justice said on May 14.

The council that oversees the country’s judiciary said in a statement that notary publics cannot refuse to marry gay couples or convert a same-sex civil union into a marriage if that’s what the pair wants.

The council based its decision on a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that recognized same-sex civil unions. The court said at the time that gay couples are entitled to same legal rights as heterosexual pairs when it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies and inheritances, among other issues.

Those opposed to the council’s ruling can file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Fourteen of Brazil’s 27 states so far have legalized same-same marriages.

Efforts in Congress to approve a bill legalizing gay marriage across the nation have been thwarted by conservative evangelical legislators.

Gay rights movements cheered the council’s decision.

“It is a major step that will ensure equality among heterosexual and homosexual couples,” Carlos Magno Fonseca, president of the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association told reporters.

Last year, 1,277 same-sex couples registered such civil unions with notary publics.