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The State of Marriage Equality Nationwide:

2014

Newer updates


October 17, 2014:

To demonstrate how fast the arc of justice is swinging, here is an updated bar graph.


October 15, 2014: It's time to reflect on round numbers and simple statistics today. With the Ninth Circuit's ruling taking effect in all Idaho counties (take that, Butch Otter!), we are now up to exactly 30 marriage equality states. That's twice the number of states that existed in the category one year ago, and it's inclusive of well over half the U.S. population.


October 12, 2014: Ladies and gentlemen, this is what the people I went to high school with at PikeView in Mercer County, West Virginia from 1999 to 2003 are saying about marriage equality, gender, race, and secular issues:

[Ex-high school classmate Derek makes homophobic rant on Facebook: Truth so get off ur (sic) rump, put on ur (sic) underwear and be a man. This country was made by real men, not pansy ass freeloaders.] [Ex-high school classmate Paul makes homophobic rant on Facebook: Share if you think marriage should be between a MAN and a WOMAN. LibertyNews.] [Ex-high school classmate Eric makes rant on Facebook: Don't JUDGE someone just because they SIN differently than you] [Ex-high school classmate Eric makes racist rant on Facebook:  Rebel Blood, Pure to the Bone] [Ex-high school classmate Danny II makes persecution-complex rant on Facebook:
I am a Christian. You can ridicule me. You can torture me. You can kill me. But you cannot change my mind.] [Ex-high school classmate Steven S. rants on Facebook:
Likes Buffalo Wild Wings, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Fox 'News,' Ace Fence-Decks, East River Financial] [Ex-high school classmate Jennifer makes rant on Facebook:
What we count as a loss is a gain in christ!  #Surrender
Phil.3:7- But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
We all have those 'things.'  You know, those things you know god wants and keeps asking for, but you keep saying 'but, but' or 'after today god, it's yours.'  We've all been there, and I say thank god for his grace, but if you want to keep growing and growing where he wants to take ya ya gotta lay t down. Feeling like letting go! with Tammi and 13 others.  Lisa says:  Amen]

Is it anyone's guess why I don't live in the area any more??


October 10, 2014: [dominoes continuing to fall] Blink this week, and you'll miss something.

Even in my most optimistic fantasies of ten years ago, I never expected to see same-sex marriage in West Virginia, of all places, in my lifetime. Now, if only I could see the reactions to this on the faces of some of the born-again Bush-voting Christians I went to high school with in that state...


October 8, 2014: Today's XKCD...a commentary as much on the state of our courts as anything else:

XKCD Marriage

The Ninth Circuit's ruling from yesterday may be read here. Unfortunately the aftermath is still a cloud of dust: Mandates in Idaho and Nevada have been issued, stayed, recalled, reinstated, split, and delayed. Idaho governor Butch Otter (yes, that's his name) probably applauds this; but it's a pain for Nevada, where the demographics are conductive, the state's administrators have more or less accepted the inevitable, and everything is ready to go.

There are rumblings in Kansas and South Carolina, too.


October 7, 2014: What's going on? As I alluded to yesterday, the Supreme Court has refused to take up five marriage-equality court cases that were hovering before it from the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal. This means that the rulings of the lower courts are allowed to stand as they are...and stays can be lifted, bans can be struck from the books, and marriages could soon be on their way in over half the states in the country.

Oct. 6 Circuit Court cases

In a perfect country, the Supreme Court would have taken up a case and promptly used it to strike each and every anti-LGBT law in the country down...and would have done this ten or twenty years ago. Unfortunately, our country is far from perfect. 20 years of the Reagan-Bush regime begat the Roberts court, and it begat their penchant for doing everything in their power to kick non-plutocrats, non-Christians, non-whites, and non-men down. I would not expect a broad and unambiguously pro-LGBT ruling from them if my life depended on it.

The near-unanimity among the lower courts has boxed the Supreme Court into a corner, though. If they took up an appeal, they'd almost be forced to produce a narrow pro-LGBT ruling. If they refused to take an appeal, pro-LGBT rulings would stand. I fully expected the court to take the third option and do nothing at all for at least another year, refusing to either take or spurn the cases, so that nothing would happen and the suffering of "Gay Means Stay" would be maximized for as long as possible.

[Walker hates me]

Unfortunately, there may be an ulterior motive. The 2014 election is weeks away, and I wouldn't put it beyond the RATS (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia) if they intentionally moved their hand in October in the hope that Teahadists would be filled with rage that "faggots" and "sodomites" were marrying, and react by voting for Christian-nationalist Republican nihilists in furor...to spite and chip away at the rights of sexual minorities, somehow, in any way that still exists.

For the moment, though, I'm willing to celebrate any victory I can get. This is a victory with a vast geographical scope: The affected circuits encompass fourteen states, and something is going to happen in all of them.

New Mexico, Illinois, and Maryland:

These states already have marriage equality, so the consequences are minimal. There's just another notch of court precedent on the books justifying the obvious.

Wisconsin, Indiana, and Utah:

All of these are states being run into the ground by Christian (or Mormon) Republican reactionaries, willing to vilify "teh gay" and deny marriage rights while doing so. These are also states where bans were struck down by lower courts without immediate stays, allowing same-sex couples some time to exchange vows while said Republicans' heads burst into flame.

Happily, marriages have now resumed in all three states...and the recognition of marriages from the prior windows of opportunity is now beyond reproach. But if Trestin Meacham stops eating again, you'll know why.

Virginia:

Marriages for same-sex couples have begun for the first time in this polarized state, which ranges the gamut from the secular D.C. metro area to towns in the southwest hollows that make Mississippi blush. This almost certainly wouldn't be happening smoothly if Terry McAuliffe hadn't squeaked out a win against Ken "Sodomy Law" Cuccinelli in the governor's election a year ago...though the reaction on Cooch's face might have been fun to watch.

Oklahoma:

As yet another state that's had its ban skewered by every court, Oklahoma has been thrust onto the right side of history and marriage licenses have been issued...in some counties, anyway.

That doesn't mean I'm not on edge, though. How bigoted of a state is Oklahoma? The constitutional marriage ban (the one being flushed down the toilet of history as I type) was passed by 96% of the Oklahoma House, and a subsequent "feel-good" resolution passed unanimously (though a few courageously stormed out and refused to vote at all). If bloodshed were to happen in any state in the wake of this news, I'd expect it to happen here.

Colorado:

Colorado's marriage ban was struck down by a separate ruling and has been hanging by a thread for months. The clerk of Boulder County led a charge in June to issue marriage licenses that lasted for a month. Though it wasn't one of the five states directly targeted by the Circuit lawsuits, its effects are legally binding. The stays have been lifted, the AG is no longer in the way, licenses have finally resumed, and Colorado has officially become a marriage equality state!

Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming:

These states' bans also weren't directly challenged by the Circuit lawsuits; but since they're in the same circuits as bans that were, they're bound by the precedents of the rulings...and all five bans have been shorn of legal foundation and are living on borrowed time. At least in Kansas and South Carolina, Republican administrators have sung their rebel yell and won't be going down without a fight. West Virginia seems to have been caught off-guard.

And in the rest of the country...

Nevada, Idaho...and more?

Today on October 7th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the marriage bans of Nevada and Idaho. Whether or not a stay happens (and the possibility seems much less likely now than it was two days ago), it's another notch in the legal record...and I'm waiting for the states of Alaska, Arizona, and Montana to be the other shoe that drops.

Florida:

Two months after a Monroe County judge got the ball rolling and one month after Florida's marriage ban was declared illegal statewide, the clock has started ticking for the stay to expire. District Judge Robert Hinkle specifically declared that his ruling would go into effect 91 days after the stay in Virginia's Bostic v. Schaefer case expired...so mark your calendars for January 6, 2015.

Missouri:

A judge has ordered the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed out-of-state. Missouri is one of those states that already recognizes every other kind of out-of-state marriage that exists, so it's good to see that a judge has recognized a right that should be obvious. There is no stay.

Louisiana:

The only legal blemish of the month happened here, when a federal judge upheld the anti-gay marriage ban with a ruling that was so ill-conceived that it was almost comedic. A state court judge added a contradictory wrinkle by striking down the ruling on his own terms two weeks later...but it'll take a while before we can knock this one off the books.

The rapid bouts of success on the marriage equality issue have been exciting, but I sometimes find it disappointing how specific they are. When will we see comparable progress happen on other social justice issues? When will we see a string of legislative and judicial victories for abortion rights, or labor rights, or voting rights, or single-payer healthcare? Marriage equality simmered for close to 20 years before going anywhere, but some of these other issues have been simmered, stumbled, and sometimes stifled for a century. Even within the sphere of LGBT issues, there are myriad unfinished matters such as employment protections and transgender rights: When will we have a chance to rectify these? I don't know...but I can only say that the hope and dream of producing great social change in my lifetime is one thing that keeps me alive.


October 6, 2014: After being cornered by the legal analysis of the lower courts, the Supreme Court has declined to take up the marriage equality cases bubbling in five states. The states immediately affected are Oklahoma(!), Utah, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin...absolutely no thanks to our destructive Christian governor once more.

Since a lot is happening in a short time and I'm exhausted, it'll take a while before a full update and analysis is ready. But stay tuned for more.


September 4, 2014: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the Wisconsin and Indiana marriage cases. Although there have been other circuit-level rulings since Windsor, this ruling...

You can read it here. It seems a shame just to quote part of it, but these snippets are par for the course:

Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.

One wouldn't know, reading Wisconsin's brief, that there is or ever has been discrimination against homosexuals anywhere in the United States.

The most arbitrary feature of Wisconsinís treatment of same-sex couples is its refusal to allow couples in domestic partnerships to adopt jointly, as married heterosexual couples are allowed to do (and in Indiana, even unmarried ones). The refusal harms the children, by telling them they donít have two parents, like other children, and harms the parent who is not the adoptive parent by depriving him or her of the legal status of a parent. The state offers no justification.

Wisconsinís remaining argument is that the ban on same-sex marriage is the outcome of a democratic process–the enactment of a constitutional ban by popular vote. But homosexuals are only a small part of the stateís population–2.8 percent, we said, grouping transgendered and bisexual persons with homosexuals. Minorities trampled on by the democratic process have recourse to the courts; the recourse is called constitutional law.

What next? A mandate will be delivered separately from the ruling in a few days or weeks...and ideally, the stays of the lower courts' rulings would expire and the gay marryin' would be gettin' on in Wisconsin and Indiana from that point on. But "gay" still means "stay" far more often than not. Like angry dogs, Republican Christian defendants never give in when backed into a corner...and J.B. Van Hollen will appeal the case to the Supreme Court and hold up social progress in his state for as long as humanly possible. This will continue until and unless my neighbors and my relatives in Wisconsin fulfill the least of their obligations and remove he and Scott Walker from office. Are you listening?


August 26, 2014: Today was Wisconsin's day before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Get the popcorn.

Judge Richard Posner

Scott Walker's bigoted lawyer

¤

"Why doesn't Wisconsin permit joint adoption by same-sex couples?"

"Uh...respectfully, your honor, that's a question for the legislature. I don't have a specific answer..."

"You have no idea, OK."

¤

"Why are all those obstacles thrown in the path of these people? I don't get it."

"That's a legislative decision."

"You mean you can't think of any reason for it."

"Well...the, the statute is written towards the general rule, not the exception! The general rule is, uh, for opposite-sex couples."

"Why is that?"

"Uh...because that's what the legislature has said."

"Why? Does it have a reason, or doesn't it need a reason, or what?"

"Well, I think there are several reasons. I think tradition is one of the reasons."

"Well, how can tradition be a reason for anything? I don't get that. In the Loving case, right, the tradition of forbidding interracial marriage went back to colonial times! It was 200 years old by the time Loving came along."

"I...I think Loving was a deviation from the common law, rather than codifying it."

(Laughs) "No, no...look, interracial marriage had been forbidden in the colonies and in many, many states; not just southern, but western for literally hun...well, more than a hundred years. Why wasn't that a tradition?"

"Uh...it's distinguishable. It's a different tradition."

"Of course it's a different tradition! So in other words, tradition per se is not a ground for continuing. We've been doing a stupid thing for a hundred years, a thousand years. We'll keep doing it, because it's tradition! You wouldn't make that argument."

"But...we're not making that argument."

"Don't you have to have some emperical or some practical or common-sense basis for barring these marriages? I mean, what's the use of that?"

"Well...well that's..."

"Couldn't get anything out of your brief that sounded like a reason for doing this."

"Our position is that tradition is based on experience, and that's collective exper..."

"Yes, Loving, tradition, tradition! Hundreds of years, no interracial marriage! They'd make the same arguments you'd make! It's tradition! We don't want to change it because we don't know what could happen, right? Change the tradition, terrible! What if men stopped shaking hands, right? It'd be the end of the nation, right? Tradition! Right?"

¤

"Now, what are the concerns that bother people about the future of homosexual...suppose 19 states have it. Suppose 50 states have it. What happens? What could happen?"

"Uh...just like Justice Alito said, 'there's no consensus'..."

"You have no idea, OK? I'm not talking about consensus; I'm talking about what, speculatively, might happen that we should worry about?"

"The...the only example I can give is no-fault divorce, and there might be a similar...might be similar..."

"OK, 'there might be similar'...what would be similar? Give me an example of similar."

"It would, uh, potentially devalue the institution of marriage and make fewer people likely to enter into it!"

"Why would fewer heterosexuals marry because homosexuals are marrying?"

"Uh...your honor, I...haven't anticipated this! I'd be happy to brief it..."

"How could you brief it? You don't know anything about it."

"I don't know anything about it now!"

(Loud sigh)

"But respectfully, I...the only example I can give is the no-fault divorce!"

"OK." (Laughs)

¤

"Do you have anything besides tradition to argue for?"


July 28, 2014: Our latest legal victory of the week: Virginia, at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The people's will is not an independent compelling interest that warrants depriving same-sex couples of their fundamental right to marry."

"Inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws."

—Circuit Judge Henry Floyd.

The lone dissenting vote came from Paul Niemeyer, an insufferable ideologue from the Scalito mold. Niemeyer made incoherent comments during the hearing (the other two judges on the panel were basically forced to talk past him), and his blithering dissent is a 35-page screed asserting that same-sex marriage is not really marriage. He wasn't a surprise (Reagan and the Bushes packed the courts with his ilk), and I doubt it will be the last we hear from his school of thought.

[4th Circuit Court of Appeals map]

But today, the Fourth is simply another rung in an uninterrupted ladder of court victories since June 2013...and as with the Tenth Circuit's ruling last month, the geographical impact is multifold.

This ruling corroborates the lower court's February strike-down of the anti-gay marriage laws in Virginia. It also eviscerates the constitutional ban in North Carolina (which is brewing some very interesting developments), the constitutional ban in South Carolina, and the not-so-constitutional statute in West Virginia. Get ready for more legal action there! (I lived some twenty-two years of my life in West Virginia, and it's the sort of state that will start trying to write bigotry and theocracy into its constitution years after every other state in the country has stopped.)


July 24, 2014: Monroe County, Florida consists of the Keys and an uninhabited section of Everglades swamp. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind as an oasis of gay freedom, but it deserves recognition.

Same-sex marriage has been formally banned in Florida since 1977. That was the year Anita Bryant went on her pro-discrimination crusade, and Dixiecrat senator Curtis Peterson (1922-96) said "we are tired of you and wish you would go back in the closet." In 2008 an anti-gay constitutional referendum passed in spite of legal safeguards (requiring a supermajority of votes) designed to prevent this very thing from happening. Monroe was the only county where a majority of voters voted the amendment down.

Monroe became the county where Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones filed a lawsuit for their right to marry this year...and Monroe County is where they won their suit; though (alas) it affects Monroe County only and (alas, but predictably) the thing's been stayed while bigots' appeals simmer. (Edit: On July 25th the ban was also struck down in neighboring Miami-Dade County.)

What else has happened lately?

President Obama has signed an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination. (If my grandparents had had their way, President Romney would be signing an order for me to be removed from the country.)

Oklahoma's marriage ban has been struck down...again. Great news; though the state will be kicking and screaming to the end.

The marriage equality situation in Colorado is...complicated. One month after the Kitchen v. Herbert circuit ruling and two weeks after the Brinkman v. Long ruling in state court, the marriage ban has been demolished a third time in the form of Burns v. Hickenlooper...an injunction from federal court. Denver and Pueblo have stopped issuing marriage licenses for the time being, but the Boulder County clerk soldiers on with the legal wind at her back...and a Coloradan can get a license in Boulder and marry anywhere in the state.

Over in Wisconsin, our marvelous Christian leaders have filed a brief with the Seventh Circuit attempting to explain why I should be denied the individual freedoms and liberties that they take for granted. If you're in the mood to stomach 67 pages of absolutely incomprehensible nonsense, you can read it here.


July 10, 2014: Has the "gay means stay" legal dam finally cracked?

[Stays on marriage rulings - propping up the dam] Stays have been the bane of our marriage equality court victories, and they're the reason why gay and lesbian couples have the ability to wed in only twenty states right now instead of thirty-two. Stays prevent rulings from taking effect until after defendants appeal and string things out as long as they can go...and Christian Republican governors and AGs have proven by and large that they will do just that. And even when a lower court refuses to provide a stay, the Supreme Court will.

When Utah's same-sex marriage ban was struck down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25th, the ruling was stayed at the outset much like many others. There was a catch, though: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has a jurisdiction that spans across New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado in addition to Utah. Rulings have pertinence to every state, city, and county in its jurisdiction...and in Boulder, Colorado, people don't take injustice in stride.

Interpreting the law and the newfound implications thereof, Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples later that same day. Quickly she found herself in the crosshairs of attention...not only from couples exercising their right to marry (about a hundred in all), but also from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who accused Hall of exceeding her authority, violating her duties, and breaking the law.

Suthers sued Hall and dragged her into court. He called upon the head of the state's records department to testify, who far from helping his case stated that same-sex marriages could be handled and identified with enough resources. Colorado's same-sex marriage ban was struck down on its own merits (or lack thereof) while the hearings went on. The final word?

The law is hanging on by a thread [...] There is no tangible harm to the people of Colorado caused by Clerk Hall's disobedience of state law and orders by the State.

The Boulder County Clerk has been vindicated, and she has newfound company: Her peers in Denver and in Pueblo have already indicated that they'll follow her lead. And one more state of barriers crumbles!


July 9, 2014: Predictably, yet another new ruling has came out (and been stayed from the outset, alas). The 2000 anti-marriage statute and 2006 anti-marriage amendment in Scott Walker's home state of Colorado have been struck down. Ha ha ha!

There is no rational relationship between any legitimate governmental purpose and the Marriage Bans. [...] The Marriage Bans are unconstitutional because they violate plaintiffsí due process rights.

—Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree.

There are several reasons why the fallout of this case is one to watch:


July 1, 2014: Last February, district judge John Heyburn ordered the Commonwealth of Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. That court case didn't directly challenge the ban itself, but he invited the plaintiffs to do just that.

Now, the other shoe has dropped: Kentucky's anti-recognition law has been struck down. Unfortunately there's a stay in effect, but it's one more chunk chipped off the bigotry block and one more piece of judicial precedent falling into place. (Edit: Here's the link.)


June 28, 2014: Indiana's Christian-nationalist administrators threw a tantrum and persuaded a court (Seventh Circuit, in this case) to stay the ruling after same-sex marriages had taken place. Just like in Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. How predictable.

For those keeping track, marriage equality made its way to 87 out of 92 counties during Indiana's three fleeting days of freedom; leaving Adams, Grant, Clay, Daviess and Warren as the only anomalies. Speaking of Daviess County, someone should try telling the clerk there that Biblical marriage was polygamy and her country was founded on a constitution that was deliberately godless...


June 25, 2014: The sweet taste of Schadenfreude strikes again in the Midwest: Indiana's anti-gay marriage statute has been struck down. Since there's no immediate stay and this comes right on top of a discriminatory constitutional-amendment campaign waged by Indiana Christian Republicans, today's news couldn't be more delicious than it is!

No-doubt some semblance of an appeal and stay request will be around the corner: Governor Mike Pence and AG Greg Zoeller are still Christian Republicans, after all. But in the meantime enjoy your newfound worth replacing Wisconsin as the twentieth marriage-equality state, Indiana! Hopefully the whole Seventh Circuit won't be far behind.

Out west, there's simultaneous news of a big ruling at the Tenth Circuit level: Utah's same-sex marriage ban, which was struck down in December and appealed to a higher court, has been struck down...again. One of the choicest bits of the ruling comes on page 52: Utah waxed tragic about how same-sex marriage "harmed children by weakening marriage" by comparing it to no-fault divorce, in spite of the fact that Utah has a no-fault divorce law. I guess when all that runs through your mind on your job is "praise the Lord and hate teh gay," everything else turns into a blur.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has a jurisdiction that spans five states besides Utah; four of which also have anti-gay marriage bans. It's less clear whether today's ruling on Utah means that the bans in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma have been struck down in the process...but it's food for thought. The clerk in Boulder thinks so...and even if it didn't, challenges to the bans in the other four states should progress as smoothly as silk on Teflon from this point on.


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