Americans for Marriage Equality

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Welcome to A.M. Equality - October 24, 2014

WRITING IS ON THE WALL: After the Supreme Court declined to take up marriage equality lawsuits from five states just a few weeks ago, appellate court rulings from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits have become the law of the land in each respective jurisdiction. States falling under each circuit court, including North Carolina and West Virginia in the Fourth and Colorado and Wyoming in the Tenth, have subsequently struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. Officials from two states, South Carolina (Fourth Circuit) and Kansas (Tenth Circuit) have declined to strike down marriage bans without an explicit court order telling them to do so. Although officials can continue to delay in the short term, the writing is on the wall. And advocates on both sides of the debate, from the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU to the National Organization for Marriage, agree the question of national marriage equality must be resolved soon. More here:

BATTLE FOR GAY RIGHTS IN RURAL AMERICA: In an opinion piece for the New York Times, author Silas House takes an interesting view of the movement for LGBT rights. A native of a small coal town in Kentucky, House believes today the divide is less political and more of a cultural rift  “between urban and rural America.” He writes: “Even as we celebrate victories like this month’s Supreme Court order on same-sex marriage, the real front in the battle for equality remains the small towns that dot America’s landscape.” No doubt many will take exception to this characterization, but in any case, House’s piece serves as a reminder that, as equality the equality movement continues to push forward on a national level, advocates around the country will play a major role in helping those not familiar with the LGBT community accept diversity no matter where they live.

NCLR LAUNCHES #BORNPERFECT CAMPAIGN: The National Center for Lesbian Rights this week launched a new #BornPerfect campaign against “conversion therapy” and announced members of its advisory committee -- a diverse group of survivors, child welfare advocates and faith leaders. Several members of the committee will travel to Geneva, Switzerland in November to speak to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about “conversion therapy” in the United States. Learn more here:

AM MUST-READ: ‘REFUSING TO MARRY SAME-SEX COUPLES ISN’T RELIGIOUS FREEDOM’: The Daily Beast’s Sally Kohn writes about the Idaho “wedding chapel” that is suing for the right to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples, and how the “religious freedom” the owners are seeking is really just a license to discriminate. Kohn notes that most “wedding chapels” are not religious institutions, but rather private businesses, in the vein of the notorious Elvis Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Even as the couple behind Idaho’s Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel claims that it is their Christian faith that prevents them from recognizing or performing marriages between same-sex couples, Kohn writes that “it’s hard to argue that opposing marriage equality is a central tenet of Christianity when majorities of Christian voters support same-sex marriage.” Read the full piece here:

SPOOKY, NOT SO SCARY: Anti-LGBT organization MassResistance is keenly aware that its side is losing the war against LGBT rights. But not to worry -- the organization has a 14-point plan to get America on its side, which largely uses all the same, tired old arguments that have been systematically discredited and dismissed in courts of law. One stunningly bizarre argument compares the anti-LGBT leadership to America’s founding fathers:

8. Get over your fear. The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence risked certain death for doing so. Many of them suffered greatly and lost everything before the Revolutionary War finally ended. It’s a good thing they’re not around today to see the waves of cowards on our side who are afraid to do or say the wrong thing, because the homosexuals (or liberals) might call them names, etc.”

Read the entire list, here, via Jeremy Hooper’s Good As You:

WHEN SCOTUS ACTS BY NOT ACTING, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?: Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explores the history behind the Supreme Court’s “non-decision” decision-making, and how this practice is actually fairly common historically. After SCOTUS decided not to take up a marriage equality case this month, advocates and opponents alike were left scratching their heads trying to make heads or tails of this action. However, the Supreme Court is under no constitutional obligation to explain itself when it makes (or decides not to make) any decision -- regardless of how entitled the general public may feel to knowing the inner calculus of a ruling. Denniston says of these situations, “Justice, it may be said, may not be blind, but it is sometimes inscrutable.” More here, via the National Constitution Center:

LA FAMIGLIA E LA FAMIGLIA: Same-sex marriage is not legal in Italy, but some Italian mayors have begun to rebel against this injustice, by choosing to register same-sex couples’ marriages performed outside of the country. These registrations, while more symbolic than legal, can help couples navigate complicated Italian family law, including allowing non-Italian same-sex spouses to remain in the country legally. In the wake of the “jurisdictional and political chaos” that has ensued after several mayors began registering these marriages, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi proposed a law that would allow for civil partnerships and same-sex stepparent adoption. However, LGBT-rights activists continue to pursue greater legal protections, as the oft-conservative country begins to become more accepting of gay rights. Laura Terrasi, who was married to her wife in Spain, says of the issue, “Civil society, the people we work with every day, is way more progressive than politicians… We lead normal lives, but we do need same-sex marriage in Italy.” More here, via the New York Times:


-RALLY IN GEORGIA: Former GOP spokesperson James Richardson, who recently came out in a Washington Post op-ed, delivered remarks at a rally in Georgia yesterday, demanding Attorney General Sam Olens drop his defense of the state's marriage ban. Richardson, who formerly worked with Governors Haley Barbour and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, wove Ronald Reagan into his remarks as he branded marriage equality a ‘conservative value’: “You and I believe the virtues of freedom and of individual liberty. We believe as Ronald Reagan once said that ‘Man is not free unless government is limited.’” Richardson continued, “This is my generation, Mr. Olens. This is the generation to whom you will be answering when you next seek office. This is the massive bloc of conservative voters who will determine if you get that next promotion and won’t easily forget your actions today.” Read the story and watch the clip here.

-LGBT UTAHNS CAN ADOPT: Yesterday, the Utah Supreme Court lifted a stay in a case that makes it legal for same-sex couples to adopt children, after the state stopped fighting the issue in court two weeks ago. Now, same-sex couples in the state can adopt children without any legal barriers from the state government. The big winner here: the more than 550 kids in foster care in Utah waiting for a loving family.

-KANSAS CASE HAS HEARING CANCELED: A federal judge in Kansas has called off a hearing in a case that challenges the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. An attorney for the plaintiffs, the ACLU’s Doug Bonney, said that it was unclear whether the judge has made this decision because he needs to simply reschedule, or because he will decide the case based on the written arguments that have already been submitted. Stay tuned!

-WHY, PAM BONDI, WHY: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, has filed yet another legal challenge against same-sex couples in Florida. On Wednesday, Bondi filed papers in Broward County asking a judge to not grant a divorce to a same-sex couple in the state, who were united in a civil union in Vermont in 2002. Meanwhile, Bondi herself has been twice-divorced and thrice-engaged.

-DOUBLE TAKE: The Associated Press reports that two separate Arkansas cases will be heard by different courts on November 20, Wright v. Arkansas, and Jernigan v. Crane. The Wright case is on appeal to the state Supreme Court after the May ruling that led to a brief legalization of marriages of gay and lesbian couples this past spring; there Jernigan case is a federal court challenge to Arkansas’s constitutional ban on marriage rights for gay couples.

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