Americans for Marriage Equality

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Welcome to A.M. Equality - January 29, 2015

A.M. MUST READ: NYT -- “STATES RENEW FIGHT TO STOP SAME-SEX MARRIAGE”: As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments and rule in marriage equality cases from four states, new battles have begun in some state offices to halt the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As the New York Times notes, some have even felt empowered to ignore judicial orders striking down marriage bans. Richard Fausset and Alan Binder of the Times write: “Republican state legislators in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have introduced bills this year that would prohibit state or local government employees from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, despite federal court rulings declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in those states and questions about the constitutionality of the proposed state laws. The bills would also strip the salaries of employees who issued the licenses.” Check out more here: http://nyti.ms/1tyzNKP

ALL EYES ON ALABAMA: U.S. District Judge Callie Granade, the judge who struck down Alabama’s ban on marriage equality, said that when the stay placed on the ruling expires, judges should begin issuing marriage license to same-sex couples. Granade issued the statement yesterday, after the Alabama Judges Probate Association questioned whether her ruling required judges to issue licenses once the stay expires on February 9. In her clarification order, she wrote: “This court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs in this lawsuit, declaring that Alabama’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage and prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages performed legally in other states are unconstitutional.” Following her order, the Probate Association issued a new statement saying that the order does in fact apply to the group, but that they would take no action until the stay was lifted. Last week, Granade ruled against the state’s marriage ban in two separate cases, and put temporary stays on both of the rulings. More here: http://bit.ly/1yDTZ9S

SPLC FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST AL CHIEF JUSTICE: The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed an ethics complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. The filing comes after Moore wrote a letter to state Governor Robert Bentley saying that the state should not abide by a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state marriage ban, as marriage for same-sex couples would bring about the “destruction” of marriage. He also noted that he would continue to recognize the discriminatory marriage amendment. The SPLC complaint points out the Moore is “encouraging lawlessness” and acting in a way not suitable for a chief justice. SPLC president Richard Cohen said: “As a private citizen, Moore is entitled to his views. But as the chief justice of Alabama, he has a responsibility to recognize the supremacy of federal law and to conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics.” Check out more from SPLC here: http://bit.ly/1tsjjUr

STATE SNAPSHOT

-SHAHEEN REINTROS BILL TO PROVIDE VETERAN BENEFITS TO SAME-SEX SPOUSES: New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen has reintroduced the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, a bill that would provide veterans benefits to same-sex couples and their families, no matter where they live. The bill was named in honor of National Guard Officer Charlie Morgan from the Granite State who passed away in 2013. After Morgan died, her wife and children were not able to receive survive survivor benefits until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act later that year. Same-sex couples living in states where marriage equality is still not recognized are not eligible for certain veterans benefits. Shaheen has said that “no one who has served in uniform should be denied the benefits they’ve earned.”

-NC STATE SENATOR INTRODUCES RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES BILL: Yesterday marked the first day that North Carolina’s General Assembly was back in session. To kick things off, one of the top Republican leaders from the state Senate, Phil Berger, introduced a religious liberties bill that would prevent court officials from having to marry same-sex couples. Although same-sex couples are now allowed to marry in the state, the proposed bill would allow officials to refuse to issue licenses based on “sincerely held religious objections.” The bill also states that the recusal must last six months and in addition, the official could not marry any other couples in that time either. While Berger argues that the bill would provide a way for officials to find balance, other believe that the proposed legislation is just a way to disguise discrimination. State Senator Jeff Jackson said: “In North Carolina, gay marriage is legal and the magistrates who have sworn to administer these laws must do so equally and for everyone.”

-STATE DID NOT TRACK COST OF MARRIAGE FIGHT IN WISCONSIN: The Wisconsin state Justice Department announced that they did not track the amount of time and money spent on the state’s fight against marriage equality. The case lasted several months in the state thanks to Governor Scott Walker and other state officials, from when the ban was initially challenged earlier in 2014, to when the case was settled towards the end of that year. Although the exact amount was not recorded, it can be expected that Walker and others wasted a decent amount of taxpayers money on a fruitless fight. The case is similar to Idaho, where state officials refused to give up a losing fight, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars.

AROUND THE WORLD

-CHILE PASSES BILL TO ALLOW CIVIL UNIONS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES: Lawmakers in Chile has passed a bill that would require the country to recognize civil unions between same-sex couples. Although the measure does not allow marriage between same-sex couples, Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde said the bill is “a breakthrough that we are proud of as a government.” The bill had been in the works for years and President Michelle Bachelet is expected to sign it into law. The law “will allow civil union partners to inherit each other's property, join a partner's health plan and receive pension benefits.”

-PORTUGUESE PARLIAMENT REJECTS BILL TO ALLOW SAME-SEX COUPLES TO ADOPT: The Portuguese Parliament rejected a law that would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt in the country. Although the margin by which the proposed law failed was smaller than ever, the measure was defeated by 30 votes. Similar propositions were defeated in 2012 and 2013. Although gay and lesbian individuals can adopt in the country, after marriage equality was passed, Parliament specifically ruled that same-sex couples cannot adopt a child jointly. More background on the vote here: http://yhoo.it/1Cmwgkv

-FRENCH AND MOROCCAN COUPLE MARRY IN FRANCE: Although Morocco does not extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, a court in France has ruled that a French man and a Moroccan man are allowed to marry. The couple brought the case to court after a French city hall official refused to marry them. After the couple cited an agreement made in 1981 between the governments of France and Morocco that says “marriages between French and Moroccans are subject to the law of their respective countries,” the court ruled in their favor.

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