Americans for Marriage Equality

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Welcome to A.M. Equality - November 26, 2014

‪WHAT WE’RE THANKFUL FOR: In less than two months, the number of states with marriage equality has nearly doubled -- from 19 to 35. As state bans continue to fall (as evidence of both Mississippi and Arkansas, below) now more than ever the country is ready for nationwide marriage equality. As the year comes to a close and the U.S. Supreme Court conferences a final few times ahead of the upcoming term, there are currently marriage equality cases from five states (KY, OH, MI, TN & LA) pending before the nine justices. Here’s hoping the court will take up one (or more) of these cases and rule in favor of equality once and for all.

FEDERAL JUDGE STRIKES DOWN MARRIAGE BAN IN MISSISSIPPI…Yesterday, a federal judge struck down Mississippi’s constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. The ruling was stayed for two weeks, meaning couples cannot immediately begin marrying. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote: “The Fourteenth Amendment operates to remove the blinders of inequality from our eyes. Though we cherish our traditional values, they must give way to constitutional wisdom. Mississippi's traditional beliefs about gay and lesbian citizens led it to defy that wisdom by taking away fundamental rights owed to every citizen. It is time to restore those rights.” The case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, was brought by Robbie Kaplan, who successfully argued against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) before the U.S. Supreme Court, and private attorneys. Kaplan said: “We’re thrilled that Judge Reeves understood and appreciated and took such great care and time to explain why gay people have the same rights under the Constitution as everyone else.” The state is expected to appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit currently has two other marriage equality cases before it: DeLeon v. Perry from Texas and Robicheaux v. Caldwell from Louisiana.

...AND ARKANSAS: U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down Arkansas’ constitutional ban on marriage equality in the case Jernigan v. Crane, which was brought by private attorneys on behalf of two same-sex couples challenging the state ban. Baker stayed her decision and state officials are expected to appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision is also expected soon from the Arkansas Supreme Court, which heard another challenge to the state’s marriage ban the same day as Baker’s court. In the case Wright v. Arkansas, the state supreme court will decide whether to uphold a circuit judge’s ruling which struck down the state’s marriage ban back in May, Before the decision was stayed, more than 500 couples were married in the state. More here:


-TEXAS OFFICIALS ARGUE TO KEEP MARRIAGE STAY IN PLACE: Texas state officials have filed their reply brief, asking a federal judge to uphold his stay on the state’s marriage ban during the appeal process. On Monday, plaintiffs in the case DeLeon v. Perry asked the judge to lift his stay so that same-sex couples could marry during the appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court. In his reply, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote: “The plaintiffs offer no explanation for why they waited so long to file their motion. They should not be rewarded for lying behind the log and springing this challenge on the Court and the State at the eleventh hour, demanding immediate relief.” Abbott argues that the couple should wait until the case is heard by the Fifth Circuit on January 9, 2015. More here:

-BOTH SIDES EAGER FOR RULING IN SOUTH DAKOTA: In South Dakota, both sides in a case challenging the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples want a federal judge to rule as soon as possible. Six same-sex couples who are suing the state are petitioning for summary judgement, while state officials are asking the judge to bypass trial and rule. The case, Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, was brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and private attorneys. The couples and their attorneys argue that the constitutional amendment banning marriage equality violates the couples’ guarantee to equal protection promised by the U.S. Constitution. State officials are arguing that the courts should not be able to define marriage for the state, that it should be left up the the voters. Earlier this month, the federal judge hearing the case denied the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed.

-ARIZONA COUPLE MARRIES AFTER 57 YEARS TOGETHER: Two of the plaintiffs in one of the cases that challenged Arizona’s marriage ban have married after 57 years together. Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey celebrated their marriage this past weekend in Phoenix, over five decades after first meeting in college in Texas. The couple, who received a marriage license after Arizona’s marriage ban was struck down back in October, have two daughters. Bailey said: “Oh it's much more than what we envisioned. I don't think we could have ever imagined the people that have helped us, the vendors that have helped us. Our wedding assistant was unbelievable and we could have never imagined that it would be as wonderful as it's been.” Check out photos from the ceremony here:

-ACLU FILES LAWSUIT ON BEHALF OF FIRE DEPT. CAPT. SEEKING SPOUSAL BENEFITS: In Missouri, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman seeking spousal benefits for her wife. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of fire department Captain Andrea Mooneyham who was denied spousal benefits by the Ozark Fire Protection District Board. Mooneyham and her wife were married in California in 2013 and have been trying to acquire spousal benefits since earlier this year. The lawsuit cites an October decision from a federal judge in Missouri that required the state to recognize marriages performed out-of-state. ACLU Legal Director Tony Rother said: “After the court’s decision in Barrier v. Vasterling, Missouri law no longer allows government entities to ignore marriages. Captain Mooneyham puts her life on the line at work and should receive the same benefits to other married firefighters and their families.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: A.M. Equality is gearing up for extra helpings of Turkey. We’re taking off tomorrow and Friday and will be back to you on Monday, December 1. Have a great Thanksgiving! 

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