Tag Archives: marriages

Gay couples to marry Thursday in South Carolina

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has denied the state of South Carolina’s motion to stay last week’s U.S. District Court ruling striking down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban, setting the stage for marriages to begin for same-sex couples at moon on Nov. 20.

South Carolina’s attorney general had filed a motion for an emergency stay to delay marriages following a ruling by the U. S. District Court for the District of South Carolina striking down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban in accordance with the Fourth Circuit’s earlier decision striking down a similar ban in Virginia.

“The end game is clear — marriage will soon be available for same-sex couples in South Carolina. This is a great victory for same-sex couples and their families because it removes one more hurdle to finally walking down the aisle,” said Beth Littrell, senior attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta.

“We urge the attorney general  to stop trying to delay the inevitable — their actions are damaging to families they were elected to protect,” said South Carolina Equality lawyer Malissa Burnette, a partner at Callison Tighe & Robinson.

“We are ecstatic as we get ready to go pick up our license at noon on Thursday,” said Lambda Legal client Colleen Condon.

Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality represent Condon and Nichols Bleckley, who applied and paid for a marriage license in Charleston County soon after the U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review rulings out of three federal appellate circuits — including the 4th Circuit — invalidating discriminatory marriage bans in five states.

Before they received their marriage license, South Carolina’s attorney general asked the South Carolina State Supreme Court to step in and halt the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The court effectively stopped state court judges from issuing marriage licenses or weighing in on marriage equality pending an order from federal court.

Last week U.S. District Court Richard Gergel struck down the marriage ban, but delayed enforcement of his order for one week — until noon on Nov. 20 — to give the state a chance to appeal.

Today’s ruling affirmed the order allowing marriages to begin.

U.S. judge: Indiana must recognize out-of-state gay marriages

U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young ruled on Aug. 19 that Indiana’s law prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions is unconstitutional.

The decision was stayed, pending an appeal.

Young previously struck down the state’s marriage ban in a ruling in Baskin v. Bogan, which was consolidated with two other cases for an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit in that case will hear arguments next week, including argument in a Wisconsin marriage case.

After learning of Young’s ruling, Sara Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign stated, “Where you live should never determine your ability to have your marriage recognized. These discriminatory bans only serve to harm LGBT families, and they should be erased from our nation’s laws once and for all.”

In his ruling in the Baskin case striking down the state’s marriage ban, Young said that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was not a proper defendant in the marriage cases because he did not have the authority to permit or deny marriage rights under the law.

Hundreds of couples across the state began marrying until the Seventh Circuit stayed the ruling following a request from the state.

Pence later said the state would not be recognizing those marriages.

In his more recent ruling, Young said the governor is “a proper party to such lawsuits. The court wishes to reiterate that it finds the governor’s prior representations contradicting such authority to be, at a minimum, troubling.”

This is the 20th consecutive federal court ruling against state bans on marriage equality since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States struck down key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

There are more than 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico.

Cases from 11 states are pending before four federal appeals courts, including cases from Indiana and Wisconsin which will be heard by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 26.

The Tenth and Fourth circuits both recently upheld rulings striking down state bans on marriage equality.

In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court.

The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case or cases — if any — it choses to hear on appeal. However, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently told reporters the Court will not “duck” a marriage case.

“I think the court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation,” Ginsburg said. “If a case is properly before the court, they will take it.”

More counties accepting applications for marriage licenses

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was turning to the federal district and appeals courts today (June 9), seeking to halt same-sex weddings in the state.

Dozens of gay couples have married since the evening of June 6, following a ruling from U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb overturning Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages.

On June 6, Van Hollen filed an emergency request for a stay. The judge has set a conference meeting with the parties in the case for 1 p.m. on June 9. There’s speculation that she may respond to Van Hollen’s request then.

Van Hollen also filed a motion for a stay with the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit in Chicago. He filed a number of documents, along with a motion asking the appeals court to put an immediate stop to same-sex marriage in Wisconsin.

In a statement, the attorney general said, “Nearly two and a half weeks ago, I explained to the federal court in Madison that even though a number of courts throughout the country have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages, those same federal courts, and in some cases appellate courts, following the lead of the U.S. Supreme Court, have stayed those rulings pending appeal. Consistent with those court decisions, and prior to her decision on Friday, I asked Judge Crabb to immediately stay any decision she might issue invalidating Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. Consistent with my concern for certainty and reliability understanding some actors may choose to take actions based on the decision, I asked for an emergency stay immediately following her decision.

“The point of a stay is obvious to most: it preserves the status quo during the appeal process and prevents the introduction of uncertainty, inconsistency, and confusion into Wisconsin’s marriage laws. As I continue to defend Wisconsin’s Constitution and the law remains unsettled, procedures like the stay give reliability to officials’ actions and our citizens’ decisions.”

Van Hollen said the Supreme Court most likely will decide the issue in the next term and “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. Nor is there any reason to subject any citizen to the stress and legal uncertainty that will result, as it has in other jurisdictions, if they are permitted to immediately contract marriages pursuant to a district court decision that may soon be reversed on appeal.”

Gay couples received marriage licenses in Dane and Milwaukee counties on June 6 and June 7. More than 146 couples received licenses in Milwaukee and more than 130 in Dane County. Not everyone who received licenses got married immediately. And some couples who went to courthouses could not obtain licenses because of lack of documents.

Other couples in other counties have been turned away by clerks awaiting clarification on the court’s intent.

However, the Rock County Clerk’s Office announced that it would issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples on June 9. And officials in Brown and Outagamie counties said they would accept applications from gay couples for marriage licenses, as did the clerk’s office in Waukesha.

At the clerk’s office in Kenosha County, at least one same-sex couple received a marriage license on June 9.

As the day went on, the number of counties accepting applications continued to grow to include Dodge, Green, Jackson, Door, Columbia, Buffalo, Douglas, Iowa, Fond du Lac, Green, Juneau, Langlade, Manitowoc and Wood.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the national ACLU filed the federal case that resulted in Crabb’s ruling that the amendment is unconstitutional.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, called Van Hollen’s emergency motion “a regressive and blatantly political attempt to revive a hateful and discriminatory law which violates the ideals of liberty and equality in our Constitution.”

Pocan, who is gay and married his husband in 2006, added, “Society has changed, barriers to equality continue to be broken down; it’s too bad our attorney general is still living in a more hateful day.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, after hearing Van Hollen had filed with the appeals court, said, “I’d much rather have our state’s attorney general fighting crime than fighting families. His appeal of this case is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and I urge him to reconsider. Our state’s resources would be much better spend reducing the very real problems of opiate addition, child abuse or gang violence — just to name a few.”

State Rep. Chris Taylor also responded: “The joy experienced by families finally obtaining legal recognition of their relationships, which occurred in Madison and Milwaukee last weekend, so clearly illustrates why the discrimination amendment is a stain on our constitution and violates a person’s most basic freedoms. 

“The Attorney General should focus on the pressing issues of his office, not on defending unconstitutional laws that dehumanize our citizens and treat them like 2nd class citizens.”

Same-sex couples can marry in 19 other states and the District of Columbia. More than 70 lawsuits for the freedom to marry have been filed against the other 31 states.

Utah ordered to recognize more than 1,000 same-sex marriages

When Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner’s 5-year-old son starts kindergarten next fall, both of his fathers could finally be recognized as his legal parents.

A federal judge on Monday ordered Utah officials to recognize more than 1,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the state before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay. If the rulings stands after a 21-day hold the judge placed on it, the state would be required to lift its freeze on benefits requested by gay couples.

Barraza and Milner married in December and have a pending request to have Milner recognized as a legal parent of their son, Jesse, who currently is only Barraza’s son under the law.

“We’re ecstatic,” Barraza said. “It’s something that is really good for us and our family.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of four couples, including Barraza and Milner, who said the state’s decision to freeze benefits for same-sex couples violated their rights.

The gay and lesbian couples married after a federal judge overturned Utah’s same-sex marriage ban Dec. 20. Those weddings came to a halt Jan. 6 when the Supreme Court granted the stay.

Utah officials argued that they had no choice but to hold off on benefits until an appeals court rules on same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball disagreed in his ruling Monday, saying Utah’s decision to freeze all benefits put the couples in an unacceptable legal limbo regarding adoptions, child care and custody, medical decisions and inheritance, among other things.

“These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized,” Kimball wrote.

He stayed his ruling three weeks to give the state an opportunity to appeal the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The ruling has no bearing on a decision pending from that court about the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban that Utah voters passed in 2004.

Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, said in a statement that the state is reviewing the ruling, evaluating options and determining how this relates to other pending cases.

The conservative Sutherland Institute of Utah decried the ruling in a statement, saying it gives too much merit to a “novel ruling” by one judge.

“Our system is weaker when judicial gamesmanship is not kept in check,” said Bill Duncan, the institute’s director of the center for family and society. “We trust the 10th Circuit will do that quickly.”

In issuing the freeze in early January, Gov. Gary Herbert told state agencies to hold off on any new benefits for the couples until the courts resolve the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but were prohibited from approving any benefits.

The state tax commission announced, however, that newly married gay and lesbian couples can jointly file tax returns for 2013.

The state has made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, saying instead that validity of the marriages will ultimately be decided by the 10th Circuit. The court heard arguments in Utah’s case in early April, and a ruling is expected soon.

John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU in Utah, called Monday’s ruling thorough and well-reasoned, and said he expects to withstand any challenge. The ACLU argued that the marriages performed during the 17-day window when gay marriage was legal are valid no matter what the appeals court rules.

“It’s nice to see our relationships recognized with such compassion,” said Marina Gomberg, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with her wife, Elenor Heyborne.

But the legal limbo isn’t completely over.

On Friday, the Utah Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt of several district judges’ orders requiring the state health department to issue birth certificates in adoptions by same-sex parents.

Oregon will recognize out-of-state gay marriages

The state of Oregon will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who wed out of state.

The announcement was made in a memo from Oregon Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan based on his review of an opinion from the state Department of Justice, according to the Willamette Week newspaper.

Jordan said, “Oregon agencies must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purposes of administering state programs. That includes legal, same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries.”

The DOJ opinion does not deal with the legality of same-sex couples marrying in Oregon.

Gay couples can marry in neighboring states of California and Washington, 11 other states and the District of Columbia.

On Oct. 16, two same-sex couples sued for marriage rights in the state.

Hours to go before first gay marriage licenses in Washington

Ten same-sex couples were selected in a lottery on Dec. 3 to receive some of the first licenses issued under the new Washington state law allowing gay marriage.

Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman held the lottery involving 15 couples that sought to receive their license at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 6.

King County, which includes Seattle, also plans to start issuing licenses at that time but did not stage a lottery. Couples there will begin lining up at 10 p.m. Dec. 5, and the county will issue licenses from 12:01 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Thurston County will close its office after the first 10 licenses are issued at 12:01 a.m. but will reopen for extended hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 6.

“This is a historic event in Washington,” Wyman said. “We’re very excited and we want to commemorate that event, and we look forward to giving all of these couples a license.”

Last month, 54 percent of voters approved Referendum 74 regarding a state law passed by legislators earlier this year that legalized same-sex marriage. The law had been signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire but was on hold pending the outcome of the referendum.

Secretary of State Sam Reed will officially certify the election, and Gregoire will again sign same-sex marriage into law at a ceremony on Dec. 5 in Olympia.

The law takes effect Dec. 6, when gay and lesbian couples can start picking up their wedding certificates and licenses. Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that marriage certificates could be signed at a wedding or ceremony is Dec. 9.

Lynn Grotsky and Lisa Brodoff of Lacey were the first couple selected in the Thurston County lottery.

Grotsky, 56, said that she and Brodoff, 57, have been together for 31 years and wanted to get their license as soon as possible. They will have a civil ceremony on Dec. 23 but are planning a bigger ceremony for the end of July.

Grotsky said the couple’s 25-year-old daughter plans to go to pick up their license with them Dec. 6, and they plan to include their 22-year-old son, who lives in San Francisco, via videoconference.

“We’re just thrilled,” she said. “It just feels incredible, it’s such a relief and such a celebration and a sense of, finally, we can just be ourselves.”

Washington is now one of nine states that have legalized gay marriage. Maine and Maryland approved same-sex marriage with public votes last month as well.

Six other states – New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont – and the District of Columbia had already enacted laws or issued court rulings that permit same-sex marriage.