Federal court strikes down Florida ban on same-sex marriage | MSNBC

For proponents of civil rights and marriage equality, the last year has been remarkably successful, though there have been some recent bumps in the road. A state court in Tennessee, for example,interrupted the winning streak last week, while the U.S. Supreme Court halted Virginia marriages that had been set to begin today.
 
But as we were reminded in the Sunshine State this afternoon, the larger trajectory of this fight clearly favors supporters of equal rights.
A federal judge on Thursday ruled Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered the state to recognize marriages legally performed elsewhere. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, however, immediately stayed his order until after the appeals process is completed.
 
“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,” Hinkle wrote. “Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.”
It was just six years ago that voters in Florida, with relative ease, approved a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married. Amendment 2, as it was called, passed statewide, 62% to 38%.
 
But now, thanks to Hinkle, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench, the measure is unconstitutional. With the district court judge, however, agreeing to a stay, those hoping to take advantage of marriage equality in Florida will have to wait a little longer.
 
As for the larger context, let’s return to looking at the scope of recent court rulings, because it really is extraordinary.
 
It was just last month when Colorado joined the marriage-equality club, which came just a week after a federal court victory over a gay-marriage ban in Kentucky. That ruling followed two wins the week prior in Utah and Indiana. Those rulings came two weeks after a big win in Wisconsin, which came two weeks after a separate federal court struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality – a court ruling that will not be appealed.
 
The ruling in the Keystone State came just one day after a similar ruling in Oregon.
 
Which came just a week after a federal court struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.
 
Which came just a week after a court ruled against Arkansas’ anti-gay constitutional amendment.
 
This came a month after a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The month before that, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on marriage equality.
 
Civil-rights proponents have scored related victories in VirginiaOklahomaand Texas, just over the last half-year or so.
 
Florida is now on track to be the first state in the Southeast to allow same-sex marriages.

via Federal court strikes down Florida ban on same-sex marriage | MSNBC.

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Michael Putney: Lawsuit not about gay marriage — the fight is for marriage equality | Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida

It was a moment of stark contrasts the other day at the Dade County Courthouse: gay vs. straight, well-to-do vs. working class, secular humanists vs. evangelicals, gay lovers vs. homophobes.

What brought them together physically and separated them philosophically was gay marriage. More than 200 people — hard-core supporters and opponents of gay marriage — tried to jam into historic old Courtroom 6-1, where Judge Sarah Zabel was to hold a hearing. So many spectators they had to open an adjacent courtroom outfitted with a large TV. It was there that the anti-gay-marriage group, wearing Respect My Vote signs, broke into Amazing Grace. They were answered by the pro-gay-marriage group, which began chanting, “Marriage equality, marriage equality.” Police moved in to defuse the demonstration, but the passions on this issue will not soon be quelled.

The tide is running fast in favor of same-sex marriage. It has been since the Supreme Court last year struck down key provisions of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The court said that all states, even those with gay-marriage bans, must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it’s legal. Since that ruling, some 23 courts have struck down state bans as unconstitutional.

The judges — of all political stripes and persuasions — have ruled the bans violate the Constitution’s equal-protection and due-process clauses. And those guarantees trump voter-approved bans.

In half a dozen states, the attorneys general chose not to defend the bans in court because they saw the handwriting on the wall (and the court orders) and concluded they’d lose. In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi sat on the sidelines for several months, but finally announced a few weeks before the Miami-Dade hearing that she would defend Florida’s ban. In her court filings, Bondi said that, “Disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.” She failed to say exactly what the harm would be because there would be none. Still, Bondi’s arguments got a big thumbs-up from groups such as the Christian Family Coalition of Miami, which praised Bondi for being “on the right side of history.”

But she’s not.

 


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via Michael Putney: Lawsuit not about gay marriage — the fight is for marriage equality | Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida.

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A Milestone for Same-Sex Marriage – NYTimes.com

The battle to legalize same-sex marriage saw a historic victory this week when the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver became the first federal appeals court in the nation to declare that same-sex couples have a “fundamental right” to wed.

The decision, striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, extended a remarkable string of favorable federal court rulings; a similar ruling was issued on the same day by a Federal District Court in Indiana. The decision also provides a vehicle for the issue’s possible return to the Supreme Court next term.

“To claim that marriage, by definition, excludes certain couples is simply to insist that those couples may not marry because they have historically been denied the right to do so,” Judge Carlos Lucero, a Clinton appointee, wrote in a majority opinion in the Utah case, joined by Judge Jerome Holmes, a George W. Bush appointee. “One might just as easily have argued that interracial couples are by definition excluded from the institution of marriage.”

The opinion affirmed a lower court’s decision in December that resulted in more than 1,000 same-sex marriages in Utah before the Supreme Court issued a stay.

All in all, this has been a year of extraordinary progress on same-sex marriage. Almost exactly a year ago, the Supreme Court left standing a lower-court ruling overturning Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage; that case has given rise in recent weeks to two books and an HBO movie.

But the prime factor behind the explosion of lawsuits challenging state bans, as well as the many court rulings rejecting discrimination in both red and blue states, is United States v. Windsor — the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The 10th Circuit decision in the Utah case included many references to the Defense of Marriage Act ruling.

Utah’s attorney general, Sean Reyes, has said he intends to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Decisions on same-sex marriage are expected in coming months from other federal appeals courts as well, with the soonest perhaps from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia.Continue reading the main st

Yet the Supreme Court need not — and should not — wait for every appeals court to act or for a conflict to emerge among different circuits to revisit the same-sex marriage question and provide a definitive ruling making marriage equality the law of the land.

via A Milestone for Same-Sex Marriage – NYTimes.com.

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After more than 900 same-sex unions in 17 days, Supreme Court blocks new gay marriages in Utah | AL.com

WASHINGTON D.C. — After 17 days of legal limbo regarding same-sex marriages in the state of Utah, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked new unions there until a federal appeals court can spend more time debating and addressing their legality, the Associated Press reported Monday morning.

According to the AP, more than 900 same-sex couples have been married in the state of Utah since December 20, when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriages violated the constitutional rights of its non-heterosexual citizens.

via After more than 900 same-sex unions in 17 days, Supreme Court blocks new gay marriages in Utah | AL.com.

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Judge Allows Gay Marriages in Utah to Continue – WSJ.com

Days after striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, a federal judge on Monday denied a request by the state to halt gay weddings already under way there.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling on the ban Friday made the conservative state—home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a leading opponent of gay marriage—the 18th in the country to allow same-sex weddings.

The Utah State Attorney General is now asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay while the state appeals the case, said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the attorney general. “We thought a stay would be the best way to deal with the chaotic situation that has arisen from the ruling,” he said.

Couples continued to line up to wed in Salt Lake County on Monday, according to officials in the state’s most populous county, who said they had issued over 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since Friday’s ruling.

via Judge Allows Gay Marriages in Utah to Continue – WSJ.com.

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Australia court strikes down territory’s gay marriage law after five days | Fox News

Australia’s highest court struck down a landmark law on Thursday that had begun allowing the country’s first gay marriages, shattering the dreams of more than two dozen same-sex newlyweds whose marriages will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.

The federal government had challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory’s law that had allowed gay marriages in the nation’s capital and its surrounding area starting last Saturday.

via Australia court strikes down territory’s gay marriage law after five days | Fox News.

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New Mexico Becomes 17th State to Allow Gay Marriage – NYTimes.com

The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously affirmed on Thursday the right of same-sex partners to marry in the state, reasoning that the “protections and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally” to them and to opposite-sex couples.

With the ruling, which takes effect immediately, New Mexico becomes one of 17 states and the District of Columbia to permit same-sex marriage. (Thirty-three states limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and 10 recognize civil unions and partnerships.)

via New Mexico Becomes 17th State to Allow Gay Marriage – NYTimes.com.

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A Leap for Equality – NYTimes.com

On Wednesday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii signed a bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry in the state, starting Dec. 2. The measure, ending a two-decade legal and political battle, caps a remarkable year of progress toward ensuring the basic civil rights of gay Americans.

Before the election in November 2012, same-sex couples could marry in only six states. That election added three more states to the roll when Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage by a popular vote, the first states to do so. Counting Hawaii and the marriage equality bill that Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois plans to sign on Nov. 20, the number of states and the District of Columbia that have come to recognize the freedom to marry through legislation, court rulings or voter approval now stands at 16 compared with just nine a year ago.

The Supreme Court has also done much to make America a more hospitable environment for same-sex marriage, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples and nullifying Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The justices stopped short of making marriage equality the law of the land, but it is not unusual for civil rights to advance in stages. Cases in the pipeline will provide the court with another chance to invalidate all remaining state restrictions preventing gay and lesbian Americans from marrying and denying full legal recognition of their relationship

A Leap for Equality – NYTimes.com.

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Plans for Illinois same-sex marriages in the works – Houston Chronicle

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Just a few hours after state lawmakers approved same-sex marriage in Illinois, Chicago wedding planner Lindsay Parrott started getting her first inquiries for summer weddings.

“I got an email at 11 p.m.,” she said. “Everybody is really excited to be able to do this.”

From the wedding industry to tourism, Illinois businesses are gearing up for June 1, the first day that same-sex marriage licenses can be issued under legislation approved by lawmakers on Tuesday. While legislators in favor and the state’s top elected officials have touted gay marriage as a matter of equality and civil rights, businesses hope the start of weddings will be a nice boost to the state’s economy too. But that start date — which falls on a Sunday — also is causing some logistical problems for the state’s county clerks who’ll be issuing marriage licenses.

Illinois is set to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage when Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill, which the Chicago Democrat said Wednesday he’ll do with a festive celebration this month. The measure says that starting June 1, all Illinois couples can go about the usual way of getting married: Head to the county clerk’s office, get a license and then have it officiated a day later by the government or religious official.

However, businesses and tourism officials say it means that Illinois can expand a niche business too. They cite a 2013 study by UCLA’s The Williams Institute that says allowing same-sex couples to marry in Illinois would generate up to $103 million in new spending in the first three years.

The Illinois Office of Tourism beefed up its website Wednesday to promote gay-friendly spots in Illinois. State travel director Jen Hoelzle said the site will soon include a list of places to get married once the bill is signed. The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, which already promotes Chicago’s gay-friendly neighborhoods and events such as the city’s massive Pride Parade, expects more hotel and restaurant business.

via Plans for Illinois same-sex marriages in the works – Houston Chronicle.

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