Americans for Marriage Equality

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Welcome to A.M. Equality - November 21, 2014

LOUISIANA PLAINTIFFS BYPASS 5TH CIRCUIT, FILE FOR CERT AT SCOTUS: The plaintiffs in Robicheaux v. George have filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, even before the case has been reviewed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Louisiana is now the fifth state with a marriage case to find its way back to the steps of the Supreme Court after it denied to take up same-sex marriage appeals last month. According to BuzzFeed News’ Chris Geidner, this request, “a petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment, is a rare procedural move that parties can take to try to bypass the appeals court and get immediate review by the Supreme Court.” Lambda Legal’s Kenneth Upton is the lead counsel identified in the filing.

EQUALITY, Y’ALL: This week, two well-known country music singers have come out as gay: Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman, joining the ranks of other out country stars, Cheryl Wright and Steve Grand. Herndon came out in a pair of interviews with People magazine and Entertainment Tonight, and Gilman came out in an emotional video posted on YouTube, which he says was inspired by Herndon’s courage. Gilman says in the video, “I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with -- Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they've just been such wonderful people.” And in his interview, Herndon tells People, “I just want to show up for the causes that I believe in. And be able to walk down the street and hold this man's hand that will be my husband one day, and I know we'll have kids one day.” Congratulations, guys, and welcome to the family!


-ARKANSAS COURTS HEAR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CASES: Yesterday, the Arkansas Supreme Court took on a case dealing with same-sex marriage, which seeks to take down the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. In the hearing, the justices seemed skeptical that a ban on same-sex marriage could be constitutional just because voters approved it. Some of the justices pursued this line of questioning, asking if it would be justified for voters to seek prohibitions against other minority groups. Justice Donald Corbin asked the defense, “What's to keep the state from enforcing those positions by the majority of the people to the detriment of unpopular minorities?” The justices did not indicate when they will rule on the case. Also yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker heard a similar, federal case in Arkansas. Both cases are challenging Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage, and seeking recognition from Arkansas of same-sex marriages performed in other states where it is legal.

-SOUTH CAROLINA AGENCIES BEGIN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RECOGNITION: Yesterday, the state government of South Carolina began to recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of extending spousal benefits, after the first marriage licenses for same-sex couples were handed out on Wednesday. Married, same-sex couples can now share health care plans, and change their last names on their driver’s license to their partner’s, among other things. Yet, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson still claims that there are “conflicting rulings” on same-sex marriage in the state, even though the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to disagree, by choosing to not extend a stay on a federal court ruling extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples. While South Carolina falls under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals -- which struck down Virginia’s ban, paving the way for marriage equality in the other states -- Wilson said, “our office will be supporting the position of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is more consistent with South Carolina state law, which upholds the unique status of traditional marriage.” Maybe Alan Wilson needs a map?

-MONTANA COUPLES LINE UP AFTER MARRIAGE BAN STRUCK DOWN: Same-sex couples began marrying across Montana yesterday after a U.S. district judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. While state Attorney General Tim Fox noted on Wednesday that he will appeal District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling, he will not not seek an immediate stay while the case is pending. Some couples said they were eager to marry as soon as possible in case Fox’s appeal is successful. “Our feeling was to make sure to get married in a positive legal climate,” said Danielle Egnew, who set a September date for a larger ceremony with her partner but said the couple go ahead and marry to be safe. Montana falls under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which already struck down marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.

-IDAHO GOV. OTTER WANTS TO FILE MORE ARGUMENTS: Idaho’s governor, Butch Otter, is seeking to file additional arguments with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of preserving the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, because he believes they are warranted after another federal appeals court (the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals) upheld state bans on marriage for same-sex couples last month. Otter filed this motion on Wednesday, and has not yet heard back from the justices of the Ninth Circuit. Otter has been consistently in favor of limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and has continued to defend Idaho’s constitutional amendment in court, even as he continues to lose every legal fight.

-KANSAS AGENCIES STALL ON RECOGNIZING MARRIAGES: While Kansas saw its ban on same-sex marriage struck down weeks ago, federal agencies in the state are hesitating to make policy changes accommodating same-sex couples. Governor Sam Brownback directed his administration not to recognize marriages while the state defends its marriage ban against a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Kansas cannot enforce its marriage ban as the ACLU lawsuit continues, but some counties are still refusing to offer marriage licenses. State agencies’ refusal to recognize couples could impact things like tax income filings and would prevent couples from completing simple tasks like changing their names on driver’s licenses. Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, called the state’s refusal to treat married same-sex couples as they would other couples outrageous. “These are legal marriages legally performed in the state of Kansas,” Witt said. “As long as the state continues to deny people their civil rights, then we’re going to have to litigate it, and that’s really on [Attorney General] Derek Schmidt and Gov. Brownback to decide how much taxpayer money they’re going to burn.”

-NINTH CIRCUIT REJECTS ALASKA REQUEST FOR EN BANC MARRIAGE RULING REVIEW: The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected another request from Alaska to have its marriage ban reinstated, declining to have an en banc panel review the district court decision that found the state’s ban unconstitutional. The state, which has spent over $100,000 defending its ban, could still appeal to the federal court or U.S. Supreme Court. A federal judge struck down Alaska’s ban on marriage equality in October in the case Hamby v. Parnell. Governor-elect Bill Walker, who personally opposes marriage equality and previously said he would not pursue further litigation, is now calling for a proper analysis before making decisions about the lawsuit.

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