The Andrew Turnbull Network

The State of Marriage Equality Nationwide:


Newer updates

June 15, 2014:

The injunction. A week has passed since Wisconsin's leaders found themselves unwillingly thrust onto the right side of history...and as expected, the plaintiffs filed an injunction laying out precisely what needs to be done. The defendants whinged and complained, a few kinks were worked out, and this is the final draft:

  1. Defendants Wendy Christensen, Joseph Czarnezki and Scott McDonell, in their official capacities, and their officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all those acting in concert with them are permanently enjoined from denying a marriage license to a couple because both applicants for the license are the same sex.
  2. Defendant Oskar Anderson, in his official capacity, and his officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all those acting in concert with them, are permanently enjoined to accept for registration, assign a date of acceptance and index and preserve original marriage documents and original divorce reports for couples of the same sex on the same terms as for couples of different sexes under Wis. Stat. § 69.03(5).
  3. Defendant Oskar Anderson, in his official capacity, and his officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all those acting in concert with them, are permanently enjoined to prescribe, furnish and distribute, under Wis. Stat. § 69.03(8), forms required for marriages under Wis. Stat. ch. 69 and Wis. Stat. § 765.20 that permit couples of the same sex to marry on the same terms as couples of different sexes.
  4. Defendant Scott Walker, in his official capacity, is permanently enjoined to direct all department heads, independent agency heads, or other executive officers appointed by the Governor under Wis. Stat. ch. 15 and their officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all those acting in concert with them, to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage.

The stay. This injunction would be wonderful if it were binding immediately. Unfortunately, as expected...

FURTHER IT IS ORDERED that defendants’ motion to stay all relief in this case, dkt. #114, is GRANTED. The injunction and the declaration shall take effect after the conclusion of any appeals or after the expiration of the deadline for filing an appeal, whichever is later.

This means gay couples are left waiting in the cold yet again. I'm hesitant to begrudge the judge too much about this: She writes in her own statement that the decision was "difficult" in light of "the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples," but she was forced into it because the Supreme Court demonstrated last winter in Utah that they would swoop in with a stay even if lower courts wouldn't. Can't let those homos marry, after all.

For those keeping score, Barron, Lafayette, Ozaukee, Portage, Racine, Richland, Vernon, Washburn, and Washington were the only counties not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the end. (Ironically, Portage County/Stevens Point is fairly moderate and came close to rejecting the marriage amendment in 2006.) Because of the detached relationship between the marriage-ban defendants and Wisconsin's county clerks, it's unclear whether a stay would have had much practical bearing if it hadn't been written to encompass "all relief" instead of just the injunction.


[J.B. Van Hollen, not Van Halen]

The nuts. On the off-hand chance that you've lost track of what's gone on with Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen...get the popcorn. First, he spouted hot air about "my obligation to defend our constitution" in the lead-up to the judicial ruling. Then, he unleashed frantic gibberish about "confusion and uncertainty" and "non-uniform results" when it actually happened. Then, he went to the District Court and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals begging on his hands and knees trying to get a non-existent injunction stayed. Then, he ordered the state's Vital Records office not to handle the marriage records of same-sex couples; even though that had no legal effect at all. By Thursday he turned violent and verbally threatened county clerks with legal repercussions of fines and prison sentences if they didn't put up and bow to his demands. Then after that went down, he turned around and tried weaseling his way out of the issue. I doubt he's trying to be a cartoon villain...but with career politicians in the Christian-nationalist Republican Party, it's tough to see the difference.

Oddly quiet through the midst of all this is the voice of Scott Walker. Much like his kindred twin Rick Snyder in Michigan, he's slinked away and let the Attorney General do the talking while he himself stonewalls and plays dumb:

[Walker being secretive]

He said he didn't know whether the ban would withstand legal challenges, and that he can't judge that because he's not an attorney. [...] He didn't know how significant it would be for the state if gay marriage were to be legalized. [...] "Voters don't talk to me about that," he told reporters.

Fuck him, and fuck every one of his supporters. Scott Walker has demeaned and diminished LGBT people in his political career from day one...and every time I see one of his campaign signs or bumper stickers, it feels like being spat at and stomped on as a statement of naked contempt for my very existence.

He opposes marriage equality, he opposes civil unions, and he has even aligned himself with hate groups in efforts to abolish Wisconsin's pitiful Domestic Partnership Registry...because even a few unequal rights are too many when what we deserve are no rights at all. He's tried torpedoing workplace protections by having people who believe that anti-gay harassment is legal investigate harassment complaints. Each and every single county that voted him into office voted Wisconsin's anti-gay constitutional amendment into law, and a short time ago he was bragging and boasting about having voted for it himself. His administration is the sole construct legally defending and appealing the ban, and we would have marriage equality today if he wasn't in office.

June 11, 2014: And the map continues to grow. The latest Wisconsin canvass list I've been able to find has 49 county names on it...and the tally is reportedly up to 52 out of 72 today.

But will it last? With the Seventh Circuit digging in their heels at their frantic requests, Scott Walker and J.B. Van Hollen tried a different strategy for spiting the people in their state: While same-sex marriages may be going on at the county level, the state Vital Records office was ordered not to accept or record them. They forgot one thing, though: Marriages take legal effect at the moment the forms are completed and the witnesses sign, not when Vital Records get a redundant copy. With the administration wallowing in defeat from that unpleasant truth, the Vital Records office seems to have quietly started recording the marriages.

The legal plaintiffs in the case have a paperwork deadline on the 16th, and a legal injunction capable of being appealed and stayed could happen soon after that. If you're ready to marry, the advice I can give is this: Do it as soon as you can.

June 9, 2014, pt. 2: Much has been said about Judge Crabb's ruling since Friday; some of it shrouded in contradictions and uncertainty. What is going on, and what are the implications from here on out?

[Wisconsin cliche]

The court document isn't specifically designated as an injunction. Rather, it's an order and opinion that lays out a finding of fact. It won't be the last court document on the case, but it does carry legal weight and county clerks are within their rights to interpret the ruling and apply it immediately.

The implication is that now and in the near future to come, same-sex marriages are on a county-by-county basis. Scott Walker and J.B. Van Hollen hate the ruling and will do everything in their power to stop it...but clerks in Wisconsin are independently elected agents, not gubernatorial pawns. Dane (Madison) and Milwaukee Counties were the first counties to move their hand onto the right side of history on the 6th. Today, those counties were joined by no fewer than 40(!) others...some of them waiving the traditional five-day waiting period for couples, others not.

The court document specifically lays out what the judge intends to happen next. The plaintiffs (our side) are to submit an injunction that lays out precisely what each defendant should do in response to the ruling. Once that's done, the defendants (Walker's side) are to make their case and a stay may be done. In the meantime, there's no stay because there's no formally-worded injunction to stay. The deadline for the plaintiffs' paperwork isn't until June 16th, so the bigots may be powerless until then. It's possible that thousands of marriages will have been performed, and accepted by neighboring states and the federal government as legit...and the longer that lasts, the more difficult it will be to take the right away. Though the consequences may have been accidental, the judge couldn't have done a better job making marriage equality available to more people at once if she tried.

Wisconsin's Christian Republican officials may have been caught with their pants down...but like a cornered dog, they aren't going to play along and give in without a fight. Though they have no real grounds to preserve discrimination in the state, they're pulling out every stop in the book to try to do so anyway. They've ignored the calendar and filed an immediate appeal, even though the final injunction doesn't exist yet. Although the stage isn't set up for an emergency stay either, they've bugged the District Court and Seventh Circuit alike trying to receive the privilege. So far the former has thrown the door in their face, while the latter is still waiting for a reply...but the state may still get what they want, as the Supreme Court's abrupt swoop into Utah proved.

"The failures of the district courts in Utah (and to a lesser extent in Michigan) to immediately enter stays to preserve the status quo pending appeal has led to chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and ultimately, further litigation."

—The lawyers of Scott Walker and J.B. Van Hollen.

As in Utah and Michigan, no chaos, confusion, uncertainty, or litigation would have ever entered the equation if the Governor and Attorney General had embraced marriage equality and let Judge Barbara Crabb's declaration stand without challenge. The black-hearted desire to deny equal civil rights to other human beings and burn through millions of taxpayer dollars defending unconstitutional laws out of hatred and spite is impossible for me to sympathize with, but it isn't surprising: It's basically the Republican party platform in a nutshell, and it's going to persist until ways of thinking change and all the bums are voted out.

June 9, 2014, pt. 1: Friday's court document by Judge Barbara Crabb is excruciatingly detailed and spans 88 pages. The notion of using the State Constitution as an asswipe for the tyranny of the majority is swatted down:

Although I take no issue with defendants' observations about the important role that federalism plays in this country, that does not mean that a general interest in federalism trumps the due process and equal protection clauses. States may not "experiment" with different social policies by violating constitutional rights.

Sexual orientation is subject to heightened scrutiny:

In light of the fact that gay persons make up only a small percentage of the population and that there is no dispute that they have been subjected to a history of discrimination, I have no difficulty in concluding that sexual orientation meets this factor as well. In any event, a review of the various classifications that receive heightened scrutiny reveals a common factor among them, which is that the classification is seldom "relevant to the achievement of any legitimate state interest." Under these circumstances, the classification is more likely "to reflect prejudice and antipathy," so courts should be more suspicious of the discrimination. Neither defendants nor amici offer an argument that sexual orientation would not meet that standard.

...I conclude that the marriage amendment and related statutes cannot survive constitutional review.

As I've reminded people all along, anyone who claims that "traditional marriage" amounts to one man and one woman is either ignorant or lying through their teeth:

Throughout history, the most "traditional" form of marriage has not been between one man and one woman, but between one man and multiple women, which presumably is not a tradition that defendants and amici would like to continue.

Marriage has zilch to do with procreation, either:

Gay persons have the same ability to procreate as anyone else and same-sex couples often raise children together, so there is no reason why a link between marriage and procreation should disqualify same-sex couples...

Prisoners retain the right to marry while incarcerated... despite the fact that the vast majority of prisoners cannot procreate with their spouses.

An argument relying on procreation raises an obvious question: if the reason same-sex couples cannot marry is that they cannot procreate, then why are opposite-sex couples who cannot or will not procreate allowed to marry? Wisconsin law does not restrict the marriages of opposite-sex couples who are sterile or beyond the age of procreation and it does not require marriage applicants to make a "procreation promise" in exchange for a license.

The "slippery slope" and "special rights" battle cries are bullshit:

Polygamy and incest raise concerns about abuse, exploitation and threats to the social safety net...Gay persons simply are asking for the right to marry someone. With the obvious exception of minors, no other class is being denied this right. As in Romer, plaintiffs are not asking for "special rights;" they are asking only for the rights that every adult already has.

Wisconsin's bigots aren't on sound ethical footing:

Enshrining the ban in the state constitution seems to suggest that the amendment had a moral rather than practical purpose. [...] Like the constitutional amendment at issue in Romer, Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage (a) implicates a right "taken for granted by most people"; and (b) is sweeping in scope, denying same-sex couples hundreds of derivative rights that married couples have and excluding same-sex couples "from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society."

Wisconsin's bigots can't even be coherent while arguing for their bigotry!

A second flaw in defendants' argument is that it is circular and would allow a state to exclude a group from exercising a right simply by manipulating a definition...

Amici say that opposite-sex marriage reflects "biological and social realities," but they do not explain what that means...

Defendants say that Wisconsin law does not interfere with those plaintiffs' marriage rights because Wisconsin has done nothing to invalidate their marriages or to deprive them of benefits. This argument is bewildering.

Neither defendants nor amici cite any evidence or even develop a cogent argument to support their belief that allowing same-sex couples to marry somehow will lead to the de-valuing of children in marriage or have some other adverse effect on the marriages of heterosexual couples.

However, that argument is simply a restatement of defendants' argument [...] so I need not consider it again.

In conclusion:

Because my review of that law convinces me that plaintiffs are entitled to the same treatment as any heterosexual couple, I conclude that the Wisconsin laws banning marriage between same-sex couples are unconstitutional.

[Wisconsin rainbow flag]

June 8, 2014: Wisconsin is the twentieth marriage equality state...or twenty-third, if transitory victories like Michigan are taken into account. Wisconsin already has Michigan beat for time: Clerk offices in Dane and Milwaukee Counties remained open late and into the weekend, and so far there's no stay in sight.

And it couldn't happen soon enough. For anyone needing a reminder, the Wisconsin stance on same-sex marriage is quadruply punitive:

By refusing to extend marriage to the plaintiffs in this case, defendants are not only withholding benefits such as tax credits and marital property rights, but also denying equal citizenship to plaintiffs.

—U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb.

I find it perversely amusing to read the "arguments" against same-sex marriage...because once the God crap is boiled away, whatever arguments remain are always appallingly bad. Scott Walker and J.B. Van Hollen's defense against "teh gay" boils down to this:

I'll be posting a longer and more detailed summary in due course...but for now, I need to rest. Excitement can be exhausting at times!

June 6, 2014: Wisconsin's same-sex marriage ban has been struck down.

[Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin] [Marriage equality in Wisconsin]

All photos by Andrew Turnbull, copyright 2014.

June 1, 2014:

Happy June! Statewide marriage equality comes into effect in Illinois today...thus cornering the stuck-up, Bible-thumping embarrassment of Wisconsin on all sides but one.

That said, this is an excellent time to reflect on how the last few months have expanded the map of same-sex marriage to places it has never been before:

[Marriage equality map]

 X  = Marriage banned by state constitution.
    = Marriage banned by repealable statute.
    = No explicit law in effect.
    = Marriage equality.

Here is another graph that encapsules the entire timeline since 2003 at a glance:

[Marriage equality bar graph]

[Hammer] = Judicial ruling.
[Law] = Marriage equality law.
[Checkbox] = Positive referendum result.
[X-box] = Negative referendum result.
[Stop sign] = Same-sex marriages halted due to referendum or stay.

This graph vividly demonstrates how the scene of progress has moved from courtrooms to legislatures and then back to courtrooms again. It also illustrates just how nail-biting the 2003-2008 era really was: Only one single, solitary state in the union allowed gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry until California made it two...and then, California was pulled out from under our feet. Anti-gay constitutional backlash amendments were shoved into law in half the country at once, and they seemed impossible to stop. Even in Massachusetts, nothing was safe: Governor Mitt Romney (remember him?) flailed madly and grasped at obscure laws trying to thwart the court decision in 2003-04, and a repeal attempt made considerable headway in the legislature's Constitutional Convention. Until the middle of 2007, marriage equality in Massachusetts (and, indeed, the U.S.) was hanging by a thread.

May 20, 2014:

Two days, two states. Pennsylvania's anti-gay marriage statute has been struck down. Read it and weep.

In the sixty years since Brown [v. Board] was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

—U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III.

John E. Jones is a George W. Bush appointee (!) recommended by Rick Santorum (!) who was responsible for the masterful takedown of the Dover Area School District's creationist pseudoscience curriculum in 2005.

May 19, 2014: I knew that LGBT equality in Arkansas wouldn't come easy, and the events of the last week have certainly borne this out. First, marriages were briefly interrupted by inferences that not all layers of bans had been struck down by the ruling. Judge Piazza clarified his order nunc pro tunc on the 15th, laying that issue to rest. Unfortunately the state's Supreme Court then swooped in with a stay, planting Arkansas into the dubious category of states that granted their gay and lesbian residents equal marriage rights, then took them away after the fact.

Idaho's marriage ruling has also been belatedly stayed. But why? The Ninth Circuit's court document gives no reasons at all. The Sixth Circuit offered the following logical points as a stay-o-meter:

  1. whether the defendant has a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits;
  2. whether the defendant will suffer irreparable harm if the district court proceedings are not stayed;
  3. whether staying the district court proceedings will substantially injure other interested parties;
  4. where the public interest lies.

None of these points hold true for keeping struck-down marriage bans in force. States aren't "harmed," "injured," or "disinterested" in any way by extending equal rights to gay and lesbian citizens. Marriage equality has outright majority support in many states and nationwide, and bigots (defendants, if you will) have lost every court case since Windsor went down a year ago.

Yet courts have proceeded to ignore their own standards. Justice stayed is justice delayed, and justice delayed is justice denied. The Supremes may have wanted the issue to "percolate" among the states before making a nationwide ruling on the matter, but by letting marriage equality be held up by arbitrary judicial whims in seven states at once, it's not's being pressure-cooked.

But this isn't the day to be negative.

[I realize this is a registered trademark, but it's awfully appropriate...]

Federal District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled today that Oregon's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. There will be no stay, no appeal, and no barriers preventing people from fulfilling their relationships from this day on.

This is the outcome of Geiger v. Kitzhaber, a court case filed in Eugene by two couples last October. As far as marriage-related court challenges go, this one was both unique and heartening in its circumstances. No one in Oregon was willing to defend the constitutionality of an unconstitutional constitution: The people don't want it, the state attorney general wouldn't defend it, and even the Christian hate groups that supported it seemed to pass off the case as a lost cause. NOM tried to swoop in without standing and intervene, but their legally-dubious effort to defend the ban was laughed off by the court. Good.

This shouldn't be too surprising. Oregon is one of the most secular states in the union, as well as one of the nicest places to live (west of the Cascades, anyway). Both of the states that border it on the Pacific coast already have marriage equality, and out-of-state same-sex marriages have been recognized in Oregon for seven months and counting. The state hasn't elected a member of the Christian-nationalist Republican party to the Governor's office in 32 years, and the legislature is safely in MOR Democratic hands that, though hardly left-wing, are sane enough not to crucify themselves on the wrong side of history. Even though they fell prey to the gay-hating mania of 2004, Oregon's constitutional referendum failed decisively in Portland and Corvallis and passed with the smallest margin of any state.

One of the odder footnotes to the situation is that the ongoing campaign to repeal the amendment...following the same constitution-amending process that caused it to become law a decade now moot. Some state may well go on to repeal a marriage-ban amendment at the ballot box (Nevada? Colorado?), but Oregon probably won't be it.

That said, the outcome of Geiger v. Kitzhaber today is tremendous...ideally, every anti-gay amendment would go down this way. The very same thing would be happening in Wisconsin right now if Tom Barrett were our governor and my neighbors and my relatives hadn't betrayed my existence.

May 13, 2014: Coming on top of three months of constant action, April was a relatively quiet month for LGBT civil rights...but the wheels of justice never sit still for long. What are some of the things that have come about in recent weeks?

More suits, more states. Federal lawsuits targeting marriage bans have been filed in Alaska and Georgia, and South Dakota is on the verge of a suit as well. Other states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Nebraska have tangential cases relating to marriage, but not yet directly targeting the bans themselves. As far as I know Montana and North Dakota are the only inequal states left without any marriage-related lawsuits at all.

Ohio's "Dubya" marriage ban is being chipped away bit by bit. Last year, one couple in the Buckeye State was granted the freedom to have their marriage recognized in the state: James Obergefell and John Arthur of Cincinnati, whose relationship was jeopardized by a grave terminal illness. On December 13, district judge Timothy Black ruled that Ohio's marriage ban was unconstitutional...for purposes of death certificates. A follow-up lawsuit sought the right for marriages to be recognized on birth certificates...and on April 14, Ohio's ban on the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages was struck down. Ohio law allows for all legal out-of-state marriages to be recognized in-state except for same-sex absolutely incongruous scenario, to say the least. Unfortunately the decision was stayed (except for the plaintiffs themselves, who did have their marriages recognized for the reason at hand), but only a few days went by before the advent of a third lawsuit directly challenging the ban for all purposes once and for all!

Progress in Tennessee, too. On March 14th, district judge Aleta Trauger ordered the state of Tennessee to recognize the relationships of three same-sex couples legally married out-of-state. The reaction of the state's Republican bigots to the order was predictably virulent, and they appealed it to the 6th Circuit...even though the ruling hardly upset the status quo and they gained nothing from the exercise aside from tearing three marriages apart. Sadly more often than not, "Gay Means Stay" still remains the rule of the land.

Arkansas' marriage ban has been struck down. Tennessee's transpirations were a bit annoying, but they were mere hiccups on the way to the fantastic news that would hit their western neighbor a month later. On May 9th, the constitutional marriage ban in Arkansas (passed like so many others in W's mayhem and hysteria of 2004) and an earlier prohibitive statute were struck state court. Though state-level courts have hitherto treated state constitutional amendments as untouchable, Judge Charles Piazza and his peers correctly recognized that state law is subservient to U.S. law and rulings must be applied accordingly. You can read the ruling here.

Regardless of the level of review required, Arkansas's mariage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even a rational basis review. [...] in Amendment 83 they singled out same-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.

Though an appeal has been filed (how predictable!) and a Utah- or Michigan-style rights revoke might be on the way, there was no immediate stay of the decision...and same-sex marriages have been performed in at least five counties statewide. That this happened in a theocratic ex-Confederate state and the home of Mike Huckabee and Wal-Mart is just a delicious bit of added irony on top.

Idaho's marriage ban has been struck down. Four days after Arkansas, a case in another unlikely state bubbled to the surface...and Idaho's Amendment 2 of 2006 is the latest anti-gay initiative to be struck down in court. This news is unfolding as I'm typing, and the ruling by Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale is a lengthy one indeed. How remarkable it is that big things are getting to be routine!

And more... The battle for marriage equality in Virginia is raging on the 4th Circuit court level in Richmond this week, and similar cases will soon be erupting in other districts as bigoted state administrators try defending their anti-gay marriage bans to the end. A positive verdict at the 4th Circuit could lead to marriage equality being established in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia in the future. Keep tuned for updates!

March 24, 2014: What's happened since a little bit of fairness and happiness materialized in Michigan a couple days ago? In what may be déjà vu to anyone following the Utah situation a few months ago, 323 marriage licenses were issued. The state's Christian-nationalist Republican administrators got down on their knees, begged a higher court for an emergency stay, got what they wanted, then turned around and refused to recognize the legal marriages that now exist. (Well, fie on that!) Good luck holding that line for long, Ricky Snyder.

[Stays on marriage rulings - propping up the dam] I sometimes wonder what straight couples would think if they were told, "OK, you can marry, but you only have four hours to do so." Stays of execution ordinarily happen for court cases only when an unusual, compelling circumstance applies: Exonerating evidence during a literal execution trial, for example. Unfortunately, almost every marriage-equality court ruling of the last few years ended up in a stay because of judicial skiddishness and animus alone. "Gay Means Stay" was the word in California, where same-sex marriages kept being banned for almost three years after Judge Vaughn Walker's takedown of Proposition 8. "Gay Means Stay" is the rule in no fewer than five states today, where millions of people are legally prevented from marrying even though federal courts have already struck the bans in question down. If rational basis was applied more consistently, courts would block marriage bans from being enforced while lawsuits against them simmer in the courts. The ACLU made a valiant effort to do that here in Wisconsin (home of the "marriage evasion" statute of 1915), but didn't get very far.

Directly or not, every stayed court ruling points the way to the Supreme Court...home of four justices and five injustices who rarely fill me with confidence. But the best thing that may have come out of the De Boer ruling may be precedent: Every court case since the Windsor verdict in 2013 has resulted in a victory for marriage equality, and every piece and block builds up into a picture that can't be ignored. Better yet, the discredited Regnerus anti-marriage "study" of 2012...the only straw of academic pretense our adversaries have left to grasp...was totally and unequivocally demolished to bits. I doubt we'll be hearing from him again!

March 22, 2014: At least four Michigan counties are opening to issue marriage licenses today, including a new one. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum writes: "The Clerk's Mason Office WILL BE OPEN at 8am TODAY! People have waited long enough. I was sick with myself with the idea of waiting until Monday." This morning, Glenna De Jong and Marsha Caspar of Lansing became the very first same-sex couple married in the state.

[Yes M!ch!gan]

March 21, 2014: Two weeks have passed since the courtroom doors closed on De Boer v. Snyder, and the inevitable has happened in a state near and dear to my heart (as well as family). Michigan's anti-gay constitutional law of 2004 has been struck down!

Read the court document here.

Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage. Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.

IT IS HEREBY DECLARED that Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes are unconstitutional because they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the State of Michigan is enjoined from enforcing Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes.

Oh, and what about handpicked witness Mark Regnerus of Texas; who was paid off to concoct an anti-gay parenting "study" that's been used as a prop since to justify discrimination worldwide?

The Court finds Regnerus's testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.

Although East Lansing was the first community to enact gay and lesbian civil rights protections in 1972, Michigan has generally had a bleak and ugly history on the gay-rights front statewide. Same-sex couples are legally prohibited from jointly adopting children. A sodomy law was in effect until 2003(!), and anti-gay employment and housing discrimination is still perfectly legal in the private sector to this day. The state's anti-gay constitutional amendment is among the most punitive of the entire country; eliminating even unfair and unequal constructs like domestic partnerships from contention. A majority of voters in every county but Washtenaw (U of M) and Ingham (MSU) shoved it into law during Bush's reëlection year.

So, what's next? Judge Bernard Friedman ordered the state to stop enforcing its constitutional marriage ban immediately. The state is itching to appeal the decision, ask for an emergency stay, and maintain the status quo of discrimination a little longer...but it hasn't happened yet, and the gay marryin' could get under way this weekend before Snyder and his cronies can do a damn thing about it. Clerks in Washtenaw, Oakland, and Muskegon Counties are already planning to open their offices tomorrow, and more may follow.

Bill Schuette, Michigan's Christian-bigot Republican attorney general, is going into meltdown mode:

[I can't believe he calls himself SchuetteOnDuty.]

March 8, 2014: One of the most significant civil-rights trials of our time, De Boer v. Snyder in Michigan, came to an end yesterday. Things haven't been going well for the state's band of bigots so far: One of Rick Snyder's and Bill Schuette's handpicked witnesses was rejected by the judge; one had his anti-gay parenting study eviscerated in cross-examination, and one was a Canadian economist (why was he testifying at all?) who stated on the bench that "unrepentent" gay people were going to hell. The densest commentary on the court case is available here, and a decision will likely be made before the end of the month.

The legislature of Virginia is in the process of repealing their state's unenforceable, unconstitutional sodomy law...putting them a step up on Michigan. Maryland is passing a transgender-rights bill. "Early" same-sex marriages have begun in five more Illinois counties, priming the way for statewide equality in June. And lawsuits targeting marriage bans have been initiated in several new states; including Wyoming and Indiana.

February 26, 2014: It seems that nary a week or two has gone by this winter without big news. The latest tidbit from the courts is a juicy one indeed: The constitutional marriage ban in the theocratic state of Texas has been struck down. Yes, it's been stayed; yes, Rick Perry and Greg Abbott's heads are bursting into flame; but it's a decision like none other. You can read it here.

"Defendants have failed to identify any rational, much less a compelling, reason that is served by denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry."

In other news, early same-sex marriages have begun in downstate Champaign County, Illinois; home of Urbana.

February 21, 2014: Equality in Illinois is imminent...and it has been expedited. Due to a federal court decision today, same-sex couples in Cook County (i.e., Chicago) may marry immediately.

And the sparks at the Wisconsin border will fly...

February 13, 2014: Virginia's anti-gay marriage ban has been struck down in federal court. More to come later as the aftermath unfolds...

February 12, 2014: One by one, the dominoes in seemingly unlikely places continue to fall. The latest breath of news hails from Kentucky...a state even more statistically religious than Utah. After the Windsor verdict last summer, Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon of Louisville filed suit for the right to have their marriage of nine years recognized in their state. The case was assigned to district court judge John G. Heyburn II, who ruled today that same-sex marriages performed in other states must be recognized in Kentucky. Though narrow, the ruling is very well articulated and pinpoints the reasons why, in effect, the state's constitution is unconstitutional. As always, you can read the court document here.

While Wisconsin simmers, the ACLU have filed an additional lawsuit challenging the anti-gay marriage amendment in Missouri...home of the other Talibangelical Lutheran Synod we're up against!

February 2, 2014: Excellent news. The American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's marriage-equality ban in federal court. The suit targets not only the "Referendum 1" constitutional amendment of 2006 (that people in my family's home county of Manitowoc voted for by an embarrassing 70%), but also the moronic "marriage evasion law" of 1915...a punitive statute from my great grandparents' era that imposes fines of $10,000 and prison sentences of 9 months upon anyone having the audacity to marry out-of-state. Read it here at §765.30(1)(a); it's an active law.

[Our marvelous governor, who claims to have divine guidance and act out the wills of his god.]

The first thought you have about the news might be this: Why the hell didn't this happen sooner? In the dystopia of Wisconsin, the haters have been on the offense: As though merely banning marriage and "almost equal" civil unions wasn't "good" enough, self-loathing closet case Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action has been constantly trying to get the state's inferior separate-and-unequal Domestic Partnership Registry struck down in state court. Our marvelous Christian Governor Kochwalker gave tacit support to Appling and her hate group by refusing to defend the law and oppose her lawsuits. Fair Wisconsin, the predominant LGBT advocacy group, became embroiled in this mess and have had their hands and lawyers tied up ever since.

The anti-gay amendment was challenged by William McConkey in 2009-10, but the case revolved around a technicality and the actual merits (or lack thereof) were barely touched. Constitutional amendments represent the most concrete record of law, are very difficult to pass, and are basically immune from challenges in state court. This is exactly why the bigots of Wisconsin sought an anti-gay amendment in the first place (and shoved it through two consecutive Republican legislatures and the people): They knew that they had no leg of emperical evidence to stand on in defense to deprive gay and lebian people of equal rights, other than "The invisible God of our Talibangelical Synod wants it to be so." They knew that the pre-existing non-constitutional marriage ban would disintegrate the instant it was challenged in state it was in Iowa a few years later. An amendment was their only hope for forcing the entire state to swallow their anti-human religious rules for years to come.

It'll be rich in four months' time when gay couples from Illinois commute to Beloit or Kenosha and find themselves welcomed by a nine-month prison term for asserting their relationships. Thankfully state law is still subservient to U.S. law...and with last year's Windsor verdict striking down most of DOMA, the box has been opened and no state marriage ban will go unchallenged from this point on; constitution-amending or otherwise. I'll be following Wolf and Schumacher v. Walker closely, and look forward to seeing it progress. A positive verdict could also eventually ameliorate the imminent marriage amendment in Indiana (shoved through two consecutive Republican legislatures and the people yet again), since it falls into the same district of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In the meantime, you can read the ACLU's statement of complaint.

January 14, 2014: Oklahoma's anti-gay constitutional law has been struck down today in the verdict of Bishop v. US. The lawsuit was filed the day after the state's amendment vote in 2004 and took nine years to simmer its way through the courts.

Unlike in Utah, Oklahoma's verdict has been stayed from the outset. Oklahoma is also Anita Bryant's and Tim McVeigh's home state, buried deep in the bottom quarter of the religiosity list...and knowing who our enemies are, I sadly wouldn't be surprised if bloodshed happened before secular rights and equality came into effect. But be vigilant...and since both Utah and Oklahoma are in the Tenth Circuit's jurisdiction, look for news brewing there soon.

January 6, 2014: Judge Shelby's strike-down of Utah's anti-gay constitutional law has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court, putting same-sex marriages on ice for now. Is this disappointing? Absolutely. Is it the end of the road? Absolutely not.

The case has been routed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals with an expedited decision expected in the first half of this year. The Tenth Circuit already denied two stay requests out of their own volition, so the hope isn't high for Utah to prevail on their merits. The Tenth Circuit also encompasses five states in addition to Utah, and an encompassing verdict there could spell the end of anti-marriage amendments in Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma in addition to Utah. (Yes, Oklahoma. When the spectacle of equal rights unfolds there, I'll be getting the popcorn.)

Another point to ponder: The leadership of Utah were so sure that their Christian/Mormon god would win them the case that they hadn't bothered preparing for the alternate outcome. Were they less disorganized or less embedded in their epistemic bubble, there's a good chance that the Attorney General would have prepared a stay on time (prior to the outcome of the case), and a thousand Utah same-sex couples would never have had the chance to wed this winter at all. So, thank the bigots for one!

January 2, 2014:

[Marriage equality map]

 X  = Marriage banned by state constitution.
    = Marriage banned by repealable statute.
    = No explicit law in effect.
    = Marriage equality.

When I posted the first draft of this progress map two weeks ago, enough had happened in 2013 that I figured I was done with updates for the year. Little did I know what was about to unfold! On December 20th, Judge Robert Shelby of the United States District Court ruled that Utah Amendment 3, one of the 13 anti-gay laws passed in the Rovian mania of 2004, contradicted the Constitution of the United States. Utah thus became the seventeenth marriage-equality state.

In a way, the news was hardly a surprise. With Prop 8 and Section 3 of DOMA gone, the doors have been opened to challenges of state constitutional bans in federal courts nationwide. Legal suits against same-sex marriage bans are simmering in about two dozen states as it is, and any one of them was bound to reach its verdict sooner or later. There is no empirical evidence that states can use to defend their bans in court (Utah tried to milk the stupid "procreation"/"child rearing" fallacy and "gays are icky"), so there's virtually only one way for verdicts to fall. Even so, this news caught a lot of people off-guard and served as the biggest emotional rush I experienced since at least Iowa in 2009...or possibly even Massachusetts in 2003. To see marriage equality in Utah is absolutely delicious: Utah, a conservative state; home of the virulently authoritarian, gay-hating Mormon church that's been meddling in social issues since the dawn of (Joseph Smith's) time and was responsible for backing Proposition 8 in California in the first place. Talk about being hoisted by your own petard! The entire court document is well worth a read, but here are some highlights:

Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on samesex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.

The court does not find the State’s argument compelling because, however persuasive the ability to procreate might be in the context of a particular religious perspective, it is not a defining characteristic of conjugal relationships from a legal and constitutional point of view. The State’s position demeans the dignity not just of same-sex couples, but of the many oppositesex couples who are unable to reproduce or who choose not to have children. Under the State’s reasoning, a post-menopausal woman or infertile man does not have a fundamental right to marry because she or he does not have the capacity to procreate. This proposition is irreconcilable with the right to liberty that the Constitution guarantees to all citizens.

First, the avowed purpose and practical effect of Amendment 3 is to deny the responsibilities and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, which is another way of saying that the law imposes inequality. Indeed, Amendment 3 went beyond denying gay and lesbian individuals the right to marry and held that no domestic union could be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect as marriage. This wording suggests that the imposition of inequality was not merely the law’s effect, but its goal.

Even more delicious are quotes by Antonin Scalia throwing his bigoted words from the Windsor and Lawrence dissents right back at him. They never get old:

If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct, . . . what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”?

So now that the dust has settled, what's happened and what's next? The Mormon Republican leaders of Utah were caught flat-footed, but they aren't about to give in without a fight: They immediately appealed the decision to the District Court, appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court, and begged for a stay while being utterly unable to demonstrate any compelling state interest in doing so. Now they're so desperate that they're banging on the doors of the Supreme Court and are ready to burn through $2 million doing so. (I'm tempted to say that it's good for bigots to be throwing their money away, but alas it's all the people of a state—including gay residents and allies—who ultimately wind up footing the bill.) Meanwhile over a thousand same-sex couples in the Beehive State have married, setting records statewide...and the sky hasn't fallen over the Great Salt Lake. Utah might seem like a theocracy most of the time, but it's not...and marriage is a civil contract, religion be damned.

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