Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for June, 2015

Florida removes gay adoption ban from its books

Timothy Kincaid

June 12th, 2015

While Michigan is taking steps which will make it more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt, Florida is removing a piece of obsolete law that restricted gay adoption. (tbo.com)

The nearly four-decade-old law that prevents gays from adopting children will disappear from Florida’s statutes on July 1.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill today that removes the language – though the ban hasn’t been enforced for the past five years.

Florida will, gasp, not issue an amicus brief in favor of discrimination

Timothy Kincaid

January 31st, 2015

bondiI’ve been amused and amazed about the level to which our community and our allies have convinced ourselves that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is Enemy Number One in the battle for marriage equality.

With every step, we’ve railed against the evil evil Bondi and her (half-hearted) defense of Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban. We’ve decried the “bigotry” in her language such as “We want uniformity” and gasped at the blatant animus of “It’s my job to defend the (state) constitution whether I not I agree with it”.

We’ve reported with baited breath that she’s “been filing briefs at a furious pace” in response to eight marriage cases filed against the state. And though other attorneys general (some of them Democrats) have also taken the position that defending the bans are part of their job (with little response), we’ve been stunned at Bondi’s identical stance.

When Bondi’s filings said that federal interference in state marriage laws would “impose significant public harm”, newspapers pulled those few words from the brief and announced that Bondi had said “harm”, ohmigod, she said “harm”, she must think that gay marriages cause HARM!

Yesterday, the media again was shocked, shocked I say, and breathlessly marveled that Bondi was continuing to fight against gay marriage. As evidence, they pointed to her response to inquiries about whether Florida would be filing an amicus brief in marriage cases before the Supreme Court. She, gasp, said that her office hadn’t yet decided! She just won’t give up!!

So today it’s news, NEWS, NEWS!! that Bondi backed down. The state of Florida is not filing a brief with the court. (Herald Tribune)

Friday evening, Bondi’s office said the attorney general would not be filing an amicus brief as the nation’s highest court in April hears a group of cases from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal that has upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Which is simply shocking!

Unless, of course, you’ve noticed all along that Bondi’s defense of Florida’s marriage ban has been half-assed, perfunctory, and accompanied by a refusal to demean the plaintiffs or their families.

Marriage goes state-wide in Florida

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2015

marriage 2014

dark purple – marriage equality states
light purple – marriage in some counties, the state is still fighting
pink – we have won in federal court but the rulings are stayed on appeal to the Circuit court
orange – we have lost in federal court and are appealing to the Circuit court
red – we have lost in the Circuit court and are appealing to the Supreme Court

The stay has lifted across the state of Florida and all 67 counties have joined Miami-Dade in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Congratulations to all.

They’re Marrying In Miami

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2015

That’s Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge Sarah Zabel, lifting her stay of a July ruling finding Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. And so thirty-eight years after Anita Bryant raised her ugly puss and six years after 62% of Florida voters agreed to write shameful discrimination into their state constitution, the first same-sex marriages are taking place in Miami:

Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto are the first same-sex couple to marry in Florida (Source).

Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto are the first same-sex couple to marry in Florida (Source).

Weddings began around 1:30 p.m., less than three hours after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.

Two of the six couples who had sued — Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, and Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood — were the first to be married, by Zabel herself.

Jeff and Todd Delmay become Florida's second same-sex couple to marry. (Source)

Jeff and Todd Delmay become Florida’s second same-sex couple to marry. (Source)

Judge Zabel overturned Florida’s ban as Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge, which makes her ruling binding only in Miami-Dade. Her stay expired today. Tonight at midnight, Federal District Judge Robert L. Hinkle’s stay of his ruling that Florida’s marriage equality ban was unconstitutional expires, which opens up same-sex marriage statewide tomorrow.

Judge clarifies Florida ruling; anti-gays remain dishonest

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2015

marriage 2014

In August of 2014, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages violated the provisions of the US Constitution. He placed a stay on his ruling until appeals (and requests for further stays) could be filed with higher courts. No extended stays were granted and Judge Hinkle’s stay expires today on Monday, January 5th.

Washington County Clerk Lora Bell’s requested that Judge Hinkle direct her as to whether this ruling applies only to the plaintiffs, and the state Attorney General asked whether the ruling applied to all county clerks. Yesterday Judge Hinkle provided clarification regarding those to whom his ruling applied.

Hinkle’s order was slightly nuanced and illustrates the care that judges go through to apply not only the spirit of the law, but its technical structure and authorities. There are three major points in what he said

The technical response

In the absence of any request by any other plaintiff for a license, and in the absence of a certified class, no plaintiff now in this case has standing to seek a preliminary injunction requiring the Clerk to issue other licenses. The preliminary injunction now in effect thus does not require the Clerk to issue licenses to other applicants.

Because there were no other parties in the lawsuit and because it was not a class action lawsuit, the rules of the court do not compel this clerk to issue licenses to any other couples.

The real response

Then the judge followed with the clencher:

But as set out in the order that announced issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses. As in any other instance involving parties not now before the court, the Clerk’s obligation to follow the law arises from sources other than the preliminary injunction.

In other words, Hinkle is saying, “I’m not the one compelling you to issue this license. The US Constitution compels you to do so. So hell yes! Follow the law!”

The threat

And he preceded this by “clarifying” what would happen to those county clerks who decided that Hinkle’s ruling doesn’t apply to them and that they could just ignore the US Constitution’s protections.

History records no shortage of instances when state officials defied federal court orders on issues of federal constitutional law. Happily, there are many more instances when responsible officials followed the law, like it or not. Reasonable people can debate whether the ruling in this case was correct and who it binds. There should be no debate, however, on the question whether a clerk of court may follow the ruling, even for marriage-license applicants who are not parties to this case. And a clerk who chooses not to follow the ruling should take note: the governing statutes and rules of procedure allow individuals to intervene as plaintiffs in pending actions, allow certification of plaintiff and defendant classes, allow issuance of successive preliminary injunctions, and allow successful plaintiffs to recover costs and attorney’s fees.

Hinkle warned them that if they want to be obstructionist, additional plaintiffs could sue, the case could become a class action, it could be determined by preliminary injunction (almost immediately), and the cost of all of this will come out of that clerk’s budget. In synopsis, Hinkle said that his ruling may be followed by all courts to all same-sex couples. Further, while it could be technically ignored, this is merely a short-term defiance of the US Constitution and an expensive one, at that.

Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a ‘proceed at your own risk’ statement, indicating that she will not be participating in any efforts to defy the judge:

Following significant public confusion about the federal-court injunction, the court today granted the clerk of court’s request for clarification. In the order, the court specified that the injunction does not require a clerk to issue licenses to same-sex couples other than the plaintiffs, but the court stated that “a clerk of court may follow the ruling, even for marriage-license applicants who are not parties to this case.” Attorney General Bondi’s statement is as follows:

“This office has sought to minimize confusion and uncertainty, and we are glad the Court has provided additional guidance. My office will not stand in the way as clerks of court determine how to proceed.”

The law firm advising the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers had, before the clarification, advised counties not to follow the ruling. Yesterday they issued an advisory opposite of their earlier opinion and recommended that clerks offer licenses. “Judge Hinkle’s order states that any clerk refusing to issue a license could be subject to civil damages and liability for the plaintiffs’ fees and costs,”

But the anti-gay activists are saying something quite else. Florida Family Policy Council (who’s sister group Florida Family Action filed a nutcase lawsuit trying to stop marriages) had this to say:

“Judge Hinkle’s ruling is being widely misinterpreted. It clearly says that only the clerk Washington County is required to issue a marriage license and only to the two persons in that case. Judge Hinkle has no jurisdiction outside of the Northern District of Florida to bind any clerk outside of North Florida. Clerk’s outside of North Florida are required to obey the current law and are still subject to all the penalties of a first-degree misdemeanor for violating it,” said John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Liberty Counsel proclaimed “Victory in Federal Court

In a highly anticipated ruling to clarify an August preliminary injunction in the federal case Brenner v. Scott, the district judge agreed with Liberty Counsel that the injunction does not require Florida clerks of court outside Washington County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 6. Indeed, the new order clarifies that the injunction is limited to the plaintiffs in the case, expressly holding, “The preliminary injunction now in effect thus does not require the [Washington County] Clerk to issue licenses to other applicants.”

Misinterpretation is definitely going on. But it isn’t by the Attorney General, the law firm advising the clerks, or the newspapers. To see this as a “victory” for anti-gay forces requires a special kind of blinders and more than a little willingness to deceive oneself and others.

Irrespective of the declarations by anti-gays, the end result will be that starting tomorrow on Tuesday, many counties will be granting marriage licenses to same sex couples. Others may not do so immediately, and they engage in a costly and futile legal entanglement before they, too, do so.

This doesn’t mean smooth sailing. Already some clerks have changed their policies to discontinue all marriage ceremonies conducted by the clerk or at the courthouse – be they same-sex or opposite-sex – based on their religious beliefs that whatever else you do, you must never treat your neighbor how you wish to be treated. But that is likely to be only a minor inconvenience as clergy step in to fill that role.

For all practical purposes, marriage equality has finally come to Florida.

Astonishingly stupid lawsuits from Florida Family Action

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2014
John Stemberger

John Stemberger

As we discussed, last night the plaintiffs and the state of Florida filed briefs in response to Washington County Clerk Lora Bell’s inquiry as to whether Judge Hinkle’s ruling re same-sex marriage applied only to one couple or to all clerks in the state. The plaintiffs argued that the ruling is state-wide and the Attorney General did not disagree.

It is almost certain that Judge Hinkle will clarify that his ruling applies to all members of the state infrastructure in any role they play in issuing, processing, recording, or otherwise dealing with marriage licenses and the rights, obligations, and benefits which derive from them.

But Florida Family Action, an anti-gay advocacy group, is predicting otherwise. And they are now suing those mayors and county clerks which have affirmatively announced that they will issue licenses to same-sex couples or participate in their marriages.

Because they are idiots.

Florida Family Action (FFA) announced today the filing of two lawsuits against three elected officials in Central Florida who have made clear public statements of their intentions to defy Florida law and either issue same-sex marriage licenses or officiate over same-sex marriage ceremonies on or after January 6, 2015.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Action organization issued the following statement regarding the lawsuits:

“All three of these officials have shown great contempt and disrespect for the rule of law and are behaving irresponsibly and unprofessionally. The federal court decision is clear that it only applies narrowly to the two plaintiffs and only in Washington County. Elected officials must be held accountable to the law and to the constitution they have sworn to uphold. Part of the reason for the recent landslide mid-term election was the utter disregard and insolence shown by President Obama for the rule of law which is now infecting so many other politicians across America. Respect for law must be restored or else legitimacy in government as an institution will diminish at an even greater rate. Ultimately, if these local officials continue in this same reckless pattern of behavior, they could easily face the same fate as so many other politicians did who are now retired as a result of the last election.”

Stemberger seems to be unaware that you file lawsuits in real courts with real judges, not in the court of public opinion. Or, for that matter, that supporting equality is likely to be a political advantage for these elected officials.

He also seems unaware that judges are very very busy people with tight schedules and they hate it when you waste their time with frivolous lawsuits.

But he may soon learn that.

Florida: “Dunno, Judge, you tell me.”

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2014

florida
The fate of same-sex marriage in Florida has been subjected to a bit of a circus. No so much as some states, such as Idaho, Kansas, or Missouri, but still Florida has had its fair share of confusion.

Part of the issue is that there are two courts in which the state’s ban was found, state court and federal court, both ruling on whether the marriage ban violates the US Constitution.

In July, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found that the ban violated the both the Due Process and the Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution. The state had not put on a particularly stiff defense, merely arguing that the state had the right to set its own laws; Attorney General Pam Bondi did not attend, sending an assistant DA who spoke for about five minutes.

A week later, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found the same thing. Both rulings were appealed to the Florida State Supreme Court.

In August, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle also found that the state’s ban violated the equal protection and due process provisions of the US Constitution. Attorney General Bondi appealed the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

She then made a request of the state Supreme Court: that it not make a ruling until the Supreme Court of the United State took on one of the many marriage cases before it.

At that time it was a common expectation that SCOTUS would announce in October which case/s it would hear. But to pretty much everyone’s surprise, the court said that it would not be reconsidering any of the pro-gay rulings from the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits.

In response Attorney General Bondi asked the Florida State Supreme Court to not continue waiting but instead to decide the issue for the state in due haste. I’m not sure why it was that the Florida Court did not respond (this story is a bit convoluted), but it has not acted.

Which brings us to the federal case, the ruling by Judge Hinkle.

When Hinkle found that the ban violated the US Constitution, he placed a temporary stay on the ruling so that the state could appeal and so that higher courts could put in place a permanent stay, should they wish. That stay expires on January 5th.

Florida requested that the Eleventh Circuit extend the stay until the appeal was heard. It was denied. They requested that SCOTUS extend the stay. It was denied. So on January 6th, same-sex marriages will be allowable in Florida.

The question is, however, to what extent.

The legal counsel for the county clerks association sent a letter telling the clerks that the ruling only applied to the county in which the plaintiffs in that case live. Anti-gay activists demanded that not only was it just one county, but that it was also only just for the one couple.

So the county clerk in Washington County, a small sparsely populated county on the Florida panhandle, asked the judge, “what do I do?”. Judge Hinkle gave the various parties until midnight last night to file their views on the matter.

The judge’s opinion on the scope of his ruling was pretty clear in his order requesting input. He didn’t exactly call the clerk an idiot in so many words, but it was implied.

The counsel for the couples filed a brief yesterday in which they argued that Hinkle’s ruling applied to all the state.

Attorney General Bondi’s brief was a bit more circumspect. Bondi didn’t give an opinion about what the scope of the ruling should be, choosing instead to let the judge do that. She noted that the wording of the original order may not explicitly include all of the state’s county clerks but requested that the judge just tell her what he meant.

This Court is best situated to determine the reach of its own order.

If the Court intends the injunction to have effects beyond those that appear on its face, or beyond the interpretation of the Brenner plaintiffs’ counsel, the Court may wish provide appropriate clarification.

In other words, ‘Judge, I don’t think your order says what you want it to say, so please give me some language that tells me what to do’.

I don’t think the judge’s position is going to change. So we should expect ‘clarifying language’ to be released shortly and that same-sex marriages will be legal throughout the state a week from today.

Florida marriage stay denied by SCOTUS

Timothy Kincaid

December 20th, 2014

In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of the US Constitution. That ruling was put on hold until January 5, 2015, in order to give the state time to appeal.

The state has appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to have the stay extended. The request was denied.

Then the state appealed to the Supreme Court. Which has now denied the stay. So same-sex marriages will begin in Florida in 17 days.

Interestingly, the order states that Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia would have granted the extension of stay. But the justice who handles stays for the Eleventh Circuit is Clarence Thomas. He could have simply extended the stay under his own authority. However, Thomas deferred to the full court, which chose not to extend.

I’m not exactly sure how to translate that move, but it sounds a bit to me like Thomas is saying, “I oppose same-sex marriages, but not quite enough to actually stop any of them”.

Marriage in Florida in January?

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2014

Florida couples, set your calendars.

In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of the US Constitution. That ruling was put on hold until July January 5, 2015, in order to give the state time to appeal.

The state appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and also asked that the circuit court extend the stay on the ruling until such time as the appeal could be heard and determined.

Equality Florida is now reporting:

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has denied the state’s motion to extend the stay, which means Judge Hinkle’s stay expires end of day on January 5th and marriages begin!

The state may now request an extension of the stay from the Supreme Court. Barring that unlikely event, marriages will begin in the first week on the new year in the Sunshine State.

FL’s AG Bondi asks state supremes to rule

Timothy Kincaid

October 13th, 2014

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) has been defending her state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a way that has infuriated anti-gay activists. She simply refuses to make wild claims about how evil gays are going to destroy society or how states have really really good reasons – totally not bigoted reasons – for keeping Teh Ghays away from marriage.

Instead, she argues that the state has the right to set marriage laws for themselves.

In July, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found that argument lacking. He further found that the wacky amicus briefs arguing that gay marriage would just ruin everything for everyone were evidence that anti-gay laws are based in animus. In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found the same.

This was followed by Federal Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle who found the ban unconstitutional in Federal Court.

Here’s where things get a bit interesting.

Bondi appealed the federal decision to the Third Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She also appealed the state decisions at the Florida Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were urging the Florida State Supreme Court to hear the case expeditiously, but Bondi requested that they hold off on ruling until the US Supreme Court took up one of the appeals that were before it, either the Fourth, the Seventh or the Tenth.

But SCOTUS chose not to hear any of those appeals. And today Bondi took a surprising step. (Miami Herald)

In a startling move Monday night, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide once-and-for-all whether same-sex couples can marry in the Sunshine State.

“That is unquestionably an important issue, and the Plaintiffs, the State, and all citizens deserve a definitive answer,” Bondi’s office wrote in a 6 p.m. filing to the Florida Supreme Court. “Until recently, the issue was squarely before the United States Supreme Court, and it appeared that a definitive answer was coming. … Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court decided not to answer the question.”

Bondi’s “once and for all” language suggests that she expects an outcome that would withhold further review. In other words, it appears that Bondi thinks that the decisions will be upheld and the ban will be found unconstitutional. And it also appears that the state court is the quickest way for this to be accomplished.

The decision requires approval by the US Circuit Court. But it now seems ever more likely that marriage equality will come for Florida sooner rather than later.

Florida marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2014

lmgarcia
In the first of a pair of marriage lawsuits, Huntsman v. Heavilin, a Florida county court has found that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. The ruling applies only to Monroe County. (Miami Herald)

Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders be allowed to wed but not before Tuesday.

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. Their case mirrors a similar suit in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.

Judge Garcia found the law in violation of both the Due Process and the Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution. Additionally, noting that “Where a court suspects animus towards a disadvantaged group a more meaningful level of review is warranted”, Garcia illustrated the animus present in this case.

Fascinatingly, the judge turned to the amicus briefs provided by those opposing equality, specifically to Dr. Judith Reisman, to illustrate their own animus. (Ruling)

The court finds that despite the Amici Curiae assertion that there is no evidence of animus towards homosexuals by the proponents of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment (FMPA), there is ample evidence not only historically but within the very memorandum of law filed by the Amici Curiae. For example, the affidavits of Dr. Reisman, filed by the Amici Curiae, for the proposition that, “a law encouraging homosexual behaviors appears to increase HIV risk and negative health outcomes and thus creates a danger both to the individual engaging in these behaviors as well as society as a whole.” The Amici Curiae also claims that homosexuality is not the result of biology, genetics or nature, but that in fact it is a choice that is naturally subject to change and within the control of the individual. (See page 20-21 of Amici Curiae memorandum.) The Amici Curiae’s memorandum paints a picture of homosexuals as HIV infected, alcohol and drug abusers, who are promiscuous and psychologically damaged and incapable of long term relationships or of raising children. (Pages 29-39). They contend, “the personal, social and financial costs of these homosexual-specific health problems concern not just those who engage in homosexual activity, but also the larger community of citizens who help provide services and who must bear part of the burden imposed by the health challenges. It is eminently rational for the voters of Florida to seek to minimize the deleterious effect of these conditions on public health, safety and welfare by affirming that marriage in Florida remains the union of one man and one woman.” (Page 39). The court finds that animus has been established by the plaintiffs and that the heightened rational basis test is appropriate.

Also, following an amusing trend, Garcia quoted Scalia on the matter.

Justice Scalia in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas stated, “Preserving the traditional institution of marriage … is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples,” which is obviously not a legitimate purpose for the unequal treatment.

One of the more interesting side observations in this case is that while Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her intent to defend the law – and received considerable criticism for doing so – her defense has been so minimal as to infuriate the supporters of inequality.

After the hearing, [Liberty Counsel’s Matt] Staver seemed outraged that Tanenbaum spoke for about five minutes at each of the South Florida hearings, and never actually argued in favor of the gay marriage ban.

Staver said [Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam] Tanenbaum’s boss, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, “is giving only window dressing to the Florida Marriage Amendment.”

It appears that the State’s sole argument was that states have the right to set marriage law for themselves.

Judge Garcia was appointed in 2000 by former Governor Jeb Bush.

Hearing on Florida marriage lawsuit today

Timothy Kincaid

July 2nd, 2014

New Times

Eleventh Judicial Court Judge Sarah Zabel will preside over the case of Pareto v. Ruvin in a hearing scheduled for 4 Wednesday afternoon.

The suit looks to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, which was added to the state constitution in 2008. According to Equality Florida, the six couples’ motion asserts that Florida’s marriage ban cannot stand in light of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Florida Equality is livetweeting

Is Arizona a Turning Point?

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2014

It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:

SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.

Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:

  • Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
  •  The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.

Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.

 

States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2013

Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.

“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”

Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.

Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2013

Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:

“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”

A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”

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