When Will Marriage Equality Head Back to the Supreme Court?

As state and federal courts continue to issue marriage rulings, one question remains – when will marriage equality head back to the Supreme Court?

We're getting closer to the answer.

Late last month, a ruling by a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit concluded that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause (by denying a fundamental right to marry) and Equal Protection Clause (by making that right depend on a classification – the sex of the couple – that bears little if any relation to the state's purported goals).

Then yesterday we heard from the Utah Attorney General's office that the state will forego an appeal to the full Tenth Circuit and instead proceed to the US Supreme Court:

The U.S. Supreme Court is not obligated to hear Utah’s appeal — or any case regarding state same-sex marriage bans.

Should the justices decline to hear such a case, the rulings of lower courts, like that of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, would stand as the law of the land.

"We don’t really know if the Supreme Court will take this up or they won’t," said Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken, who attended Wednesday’s march. "Unfortunately, today we have families, couples, children who are living in legal limbo."

Check out our website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW Foundation

Kentucky Marriage Ban Struck Down

Continuing the unbroken record of marriage equality wins since last year’s Supreme Court ruling against DOMA in the Windsor case, today a federal judge ruled unconstitutional Kentucky’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

District Judge John G. Heyburn II wrote:

In America, even sincere and long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted.

He dismissed the opposing arguments — including that the ban was good for the state’s economic stability and birth rates — out of hand, noting, “These arguments are not those of serious people.”

The judge has stayed the ruling for now, meaning that Kentucky couples can’t immediately begin marrying. But the decision is a significant victory for LGBT families in the Bluegrass State, where activists have fought courageously for equal rights for many years. Congratulations, Kentucky!

PFAW Foundation

Indiana’s Marriage Ban Struck Down

In another win for equality, today U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down Indiana’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Because the judge did not stay the ruling, the Indianapolis Star reports that couples can begin getting married right away.

Not a single state marriage ban has been able to withstand a challenge in federal court in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down part of DOMA.

Congratulations, Indiana!

PFAW Foundation

Dakotans File Suit, All Fifty States Now Have Either Marriage Equality or a Legal Challenge in Progress

In May, when we last updated our numbers on the fight for marriage equality, there were just two states left with unchallenged bans on same-sex marriage.

Today that number is zero – every state now either has marriage equality (19 and DC) or a legal challenge in progress (the other 31).

First we heard from South Dakota on May 22, where Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard has been filed on behalf of six couples.

Attorney Josh Newville in the Argus Leader:

With the filing of this lawsuit, South Dakota will join the many other states in the nation who are engaged in a historic and very important discussion about it what means to treat each other equally under the law.

Two weeks later, on June 6, Newville was back in court putting the last state on the board by filing Ramsay v. Dalrymple on behalf of seven North Dakota couples.

Plaintiff Bernie Erickson on Valley News Live:

We are simply looking for the same recognition that every other couple has, every other loving couple[].

Onward!

Check out our website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW Foundation

Marriage Equality Now Law in 19 States, Only 2 Bans Remain Unchallenged

The march toward marriage equality nationwide continues at an astounding pace.

On Monday Oregon became the 18th state added to the win column when Judge Michael McShane struck down its ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Then on Tuesday Judge John Jones issued a similar ruling in Pennsylvania, followed Wednesday by the news that Governor Tom Corbett won't appeal – make that 19!

Wednesday also brought the filing of a marriage equality lawsuit in Montana. Governor Steve Bullock:

Montanans cherish our freedom and recognize the individual dignity of every one of us. The time has come for our state to recognize and celebrate – not discriminate against – two people who love one another, are committed to each other, and want to spend their lives together.

I look forward to a future where all Montanans have the opportunity to marry the person they love, just as Lisa and I did almost 15 years ago. We are on the path to greater understanding and equality, and we will all be better for it.

Montana is the 29th state without marriage equality that has a lawsuit pending.

That leaves only two states, North and South Dakota, with unchallenged bans on same-sex marriage. Their suits could be filed any day now.

Onward!

Check out our website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW Foundation

Pennsylvania Marriage Ban Struck Down

Another day, another discriminatory ban struck down. Today a federal judge ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf that Pennsylvania’s 1996 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This victory for marriage equality follows closely on the heels of the striking of Oregon’s ban only yesterday and makes Pennsylvania the 19th state allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Congratulate Pennsylvanians by sharing our graphic below:

PFAW Foundation

Marriage Equality Lawsuit Filed in Alaska, Only Three State Bans Remain Unchallenged

It seems like the march toward marriage equality is making news every day. Just yesterday, May 12, Alaska became the latest state to take up the issue when a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage, which dates back to 1998.

The plaintiffs' intent is plainly stated:

[R]estore to the Alaska Constitution the principles of due process, fairness, and equality, and to restore and affirm the civil liberties, individual rights, and personal dignities otherwise guaranteed by the Alaska Constitution to each and all of its citizens.

But it's their personal stories that really drive the message home:

Matthew Hamby and Christopher Shelden: They have experienced difficulties obtaining benefits, such as health insurance, extended by the State of Alaska to other married couples as a routine matter.

Susan Tow and Christina Laborde: The same-sex marriage ban complicates the process by which Christine could adopt the children.

Stephanie Pearson and Courtney Lamb: The couple lives in Anchorage and wishes to marry in Alaska because both feel that Alaska is their home and that they should be able to marry in their home state.

Sean Egan and David Robinson: Despite the fact that they were lawfully married in New York nearly three years ago and that even the United States Armed Forces now recognize them as married, extending to Sean the benefits available to military spouses, the State of Alaska does not recognize their marriage, and in the eyes of the State, they are legal strangers, their marriage void under state law.

Tracey Wiese and Katrina Cortez: Tracey moved to Alaska sixteen years ago and Katrina has lived in Alaska her entire life. Tracey works for Providence Medical Center and is a business owner. Katrina is a [self-employed] business owner. The couple has a three year old daughter together.

Yesterday's filing is great news for these couples and countless other Alaskans wishing to bring marriage equality to their state, but on this issue Alaska is not The Last Frontier – three states remain with unchallenged marriage bans.

Here's where we stand:

17 states and DC have legalized marriage for same-sex couples.

30 states without marriage equality have lawsuits pending.

3 states – Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have unchallenged bans, though a South Dakota challenge is expected soon.

Check out our website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW Foundation

Marriage Equality Ruling in Arkansas Welcomed by Southerners for the Freedom to Marry

This past Friday, May 9, Arkansas State Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state's discriminatory constitutional amendment – marriage equality's first step into the South.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry:

Today a state circuit judge in Arkansas ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, the latest in a unanimous wave of favorable rulings from more than a dozen state and federal judges across the country in recent months. Judge Piazza held that there is no good reason for discriminating against couples and their loved ones just because they are gay. With nearly 70 marriage cases now making their way through the courts, and five federal appellate courts now hearing arguments and soon to rule, today's decision out of Arkansas underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.

Wolfson and his organization have been working on a project called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, and though we expect an appeal to the Arkansas ruling, it looks like the South is ready for change.

One notable Southerner helping to lead the way is Congressman John Lewis, who for more than fifty years has championed the causes of civil rights and was one of only eighty-one members of the House and Senate who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

The remarks he made back in 1996:

. . . are just as timely as those he makes today for the Southerners project:

. . . and they were echoed by Judge Piazza in Arkansas:

The issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority. Our judiciary has failed such groups in the past.

PFAW Foundation

Fair Housing for LGBT People Rejected in Louisiana

On March 31, the day before the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) marked the beginning of Fair Housing Month, Louisiana lawmakers said "no" to affording greater protections for LGBT people under state housing discrimination law.

Under current law, Louisiana protects the ability "to compete for available housing on an open, fair, and equitable basis, regardless of race, color, religion, [and] sex." House Bill 804, introduced by Representative Jared Brossett of New Orleans, would have added to the list protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and marital status.

Unfortunately, Monday's House committee vote ended in a 13-5 defeat of Representative Brossett's bill.

Equality Louisiana has shown that Louisianans strongly support on the side of housing fairness:

Equality Louisiana polls shows 93.7% oppose LGBT housing discrimination

But the opposition didn't miss a beat. The Times-Picayune's Laura McGaughy reported:

Kathleen Benfield, from the conservative Christian organization the American Family Association of New Orleans, also testified against the bill on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum's Gene Mills, who she said could not make the hearing.

She said the issue presented by the bill was "to protect certain sexual practices outside of marriage" and said this isn't a civil rights issue since sexual identity and gender expression are not "immutable" like race and "can change over time." She also said Brossett didn't present proof that homosexuals are being discriminated against in Louisiana.

"In my opinion, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem -- that there is not a problem," said Benfield.

Right Wing Watch has more on the American Family Association.

In other news on the fight for LGBT equality, Illinois moves toward banning sexual orientation conversion therapy while Minnesota falters on that front, and marriage equality developments continue to unfold in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Check out PFAW’s website for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW

Young People Are Leading the Way on Marriage and Family Equality

Last week's Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed that a supermajority now supports marriage equality, and half believe it's a constitutional right.

This week the Pew Research Center released its own numbers. 54 percent of respondents to the Pew poll, conducted in February, support a legal right to marry for gays and lesbians. Ten years ago, that number was just 32 percent. And in June 1996, the earliest available data, it was 27 percent.

Then Pew dug a bit deeper into the generation gap.

18- to 29-year-olds are leading the way overall (69 percent), both among Democrats (77 percent) and Republicans (61 percent). It's in the Republican Party where the generation gap is widest, with 30- to 49-year-olds 18 points behind at 43 percent, 50- to 64-year-olds 31 points behind at 30 percent, and those 65 and older 39 points behind at 22 percent.

The numbers on family equality tell a similar story.

PFAW will continue to support not only the freedom to marry nationwide and but also a definition of family that doesn't rest on parents' sexual orientation or gender identity.

In other LGBT news, new marriage equality litigation continues to pop up in the states, and Michigan has its first openly LGBT federal judge.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

PFAW