Ninth Circuit slaps down Butch Otter
January 10th, 2015
Idaho Governor Butch Otter has had his hat handed back to him. Again.
Otter’s defense of the state’s anti-gay marriage laws hasn’t gone well. He lost in federal court. He lost on appeal at the Ninth Circuit. And the Supreme Court is not considering whether to hear Idaho’s appeal. On October 10th of last year, Justice Kennedy lifted the last stay and marriages have been occurring since.
But it seems that Otter hasn’t met Captain Obvious. So, in what appears to be a pointless effort, he appealed to the Ninth Circuit to hear his case en banc (by a larger panel of judges).
He did get the support of three judges, O’Scannlain, Rawlinson, and Bea, but,
The full court was advised of the petitions for rehearing en banc. A judge requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. The matter failed to receive a majority of the votes of the nonrecused active judges in favor of en banc reconsideration.
Marriage goes state-wide in Florida
January 6th, 2015
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.
Judge clarifies Florida ruling; anti-gays remain dishonest
January 2nd, 2015
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!”
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
December 30th, 2014
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.”
December 30th, 2014
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.
SCOTUS marriage decision looms
December 23rd, 2014
The Supreme Court has scheduled January 9, 2015, as the date on which to consider whether to hear appeals in five marriage cases. The states from which these cases originate are Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana.
In Louisiana a federal judge ruled to uphold the anti-gay marriage ban, and the other four are in the Sixth Circuit, where the appeals court overturned federal judges who had ruled for equality.
We will not know until next month whether SCOTUS will hear any marriage appeals, but if they do so, it will only be those which are requesting that marriages be allowed. In other words, the court has not scheduled for hearing any appeals which could reverse a state’s current practice of allowing same-sex marriage.
I think that this, when taken with past appeal and stay decisions, may suggest a predisposition on the part of the court to move in the direction of equality.
However, the court has also illustrated a lack of willingness to rule directly on the issue. And this brings up another possibility – though probably not a likely one.
On January 9th – or some point thereafter – the court could take steps to reverse the Sixth Circuit decision without taking up appeal. They could return the cases from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals with instruction that the court more carefully consider or weigh some aspect of the case.
But whichever direction they go, it now seems encouraging that next month will prove to be a rather big step (likely forward) in the marriage movement.
Florida marriage stay denied by SCOTUS
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”.
No Christmas nuptials for Mississippi
December 4th, 2014
Alas, before the stay issued by Judge Carlton Reeves expired on his ruling overturning Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, the
Tenth Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended the stay. So there will be no same-sex marriages in that state this year.
However, the wait is not interminable. The
Tenth Fifth Circuit is scheduled on January 9th to hear oral arguments on similar rulings from Texas (favorable) and Louisiana (unfavorable). Assuming it makes its determination shortly thereafter, it is likely that this ruling will also apply in short order to Mississippi.
Marriage in Florida in January?
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.
Finland votes for marriage equality
November 28th, 2014
Finland has had partner recognition since 2002, a fairly early participant in the quest for equality for same-sex couples. But, unlike other Scandinavian nations which have full equality, Finland stalled.
In 2010 we predicted that marriage equality would come within the next year. But although there is large popular support for the gay community, political will didn’t seem to materialize.
However, today the Finnish Parliament finally voted to bring their nation into the family of states that fully honor the relationships of their gay citizens. (yle)
The Finnish Parliament voted on Friday afternoon to allow gender-neutral marriage, 105-92. The vote had been expected to be closer.
The result was a sweet triumph for the thousands of supporters of marriage equality who gathered around the Parliament this afternoon. Many of them waved rainbow-coloured flags and banners. Shouts of “I do!” – the battle cry of the movement – echoed through the streets. Opponents of the measure also turned out for the session, but found themselves vastly outnumbered.
The reform will force wide-ranging changes in other legislation, which will take well over a year to finalise. The law will therefore not take effect until 2016 at the earliest.
Federal judge tosses Mississippi’s anti-gay marriage ban
November 27th, 2014
Dark Purple – marriage equality states
Light Purple – marriage equality ruling but only some localities are granting marriage licenses
Red – federal judges have ruled for equality but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled
Pink – favorable rulings are stayed for appeal
Baby-puke – unfavorable ruling on appeal
Same-sex couples in Mississippi have something to be thankful for this year; by Christmas they might be married. (Geidner)
A federal judge in Mississippi on Tuesday night ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional — but the decision has been put on hold for two weeks.
“Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote. “Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same-sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children.”
(sorry folks, it looks like I forgot to click “publish” on this – so here it is late)
Fed judge tosses Arkansas marriage ban
November 25th, 2014
In May, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal judge has concurred.
Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker ruled that Arkansas’ ban violates the Constitution in two ways: by violating the fundamental right to marriage and by unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of sex.
Baker ruled against the plaintiffs in the case on their claim that the ban unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, citing a 2006 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — where federal appeals out of Arkansas are heard — as limiting her consideration of that claim.
The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Also stayed pending circuit court appeal are Texas and Florida.
And the purple grows
November 20th, 2014
As Jim has let us know, we now can add Montana to the states in which one can legally marry their same-sex partner. Also, the Supreme Court has denied a stay in South Carolina and marriages there have begun.
We are now up to 36 states (plus the District of Columbia) in which there is marriage equality (purple).
There are four states in which federal courts have ruled for marriage equality but which are within the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the only appeals court in which the bans on same-sex marriage have been upheld (red).
The remaining states are in circuits in which an appellate court has not ruled and, in some cases, in which neither a federal nor state court has yet heard the marriage question.
In Texas and Arkansas, federal courts have ruled for equality but the ruling is stayed pending appeal. In Florida, a pro-equality ruling is stayed until January. In Louisiana, a federal judge ruled for exclusion and a state judge ruled for equality (but under the federal, not state constitution).
Marriage Equality Has Finally Arrived To Big Sky Country (Updated)
November 19th, 2014
Federal District Judge Brian Morris has issued a ruling striking down Montana’s ban on same-sex marraige. His reason for doing so was simple and straight-forward. It all comes down to Latta v. Otter, in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling which found Idaho’s marriage equality ban unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth’s ruling, which makes the Ninth’s ruling binding on all courts with the Ninth Circuit. (Update: jutta is right in the comments; my memory was faulty. Neither Latta nor any other case from the Ninth Circuit has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ninth’s ruling in Latta, absent a successful challenge, is nevertheless binding on all courts within the Ninth Circuit.) Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, so that pretty much settles the question for Montana (PDF: 76KB/18 pages)
…Defendants argue that Latta misinterprets these Supreme Court cases and arrives at the erroneous conclusion that Baker no longer serves as binding precedent. This Court has reviewed the analysis in Latta and agrees that Baker no longer precludes consideration of challenges to the constitutionality of laws that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, even if the Court disagreed with the analysis in Latta, that analysis represents “binding authority” that “must be followed unless and until overruled.” …
…The Ninth Circuit in Latta analyzed laws in Idaho and Nevada that imposed nearly identical prohibitions on same-sex marriages as the laws in Montana. Latta determined that these Idaho and Nevada laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Latta, *3. Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage likewise discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation….
…The decision in Latta to apply heightened scrutiny to classifications based on sexual orientation, as developed in SmithKline, represents binding precedent. Hart, 266 F.3d at 1170. This Court must evaluate Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage using the heightened scrutiny analysis. …
You get the idea. References to Latta appear thirty-five times in Judge Morris’s ruling. He basically could have phoned this one in: “Go look up Latta.” There’s nothing legally original to this ruling, but it is nice to see Judge Morris add his own thoughts on the subject:
Plaintiffs who challenge these Montana laws that ban same-sex marriage come from diverse points across Montana. They hale from communities large and small – Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Charlo, and Philipsburg. Plaintiffs come from families that have lived in Montana for generations and from recently arrived families. They represent different walks of life that range from public employees, to military veterans, to retail managers, to marketers, to health care workers. They spend their free time engaged in activities that thousands of Montana families enjoy. These couples recreate in the beautiful outdoors that Montana offers. They cheer for their favorite teams at local sporting events. They practice their faiths freely as guaranteed by our Constitution.
And like many families in Montana, some of these same-sex couples raise children. … These families want for their children what all families in Montana want. They want to provide a safe and loving home in which their children have the chance to explore the world in which they live. They want their children to have the chance to discover their place in this world. And they want their children to have the chance to fulfill their highest dreams. These families, like all of us, want their children to adventure into the world without fear of violence; to achieve all that their talent and perseverance allows without fear of discrimination; and to love themselves so that they can love others. No family wants to deprive its precious children of the chance to marry the loves of their lives. Montana no longer can deprive Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves.
The ruling goes into effect immediately, although the state’s Republican Attorney General Tim Fox has already announced that he intends to file a futile yet costly appeal. Hey Timothy! Where’s the map?
Kansas marriages begin
November 12th, 2014
Dark purple – marriages now may occur
Light Purple – states are in circuits which have found for marriage equality
Red – the Sixth Circuit has upheld the bans on equality in these states
The state of Kansas has run out of measures by which to prevent the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court just chose to deny stay in their latest appeal. Only two justices, Scalia and Thomas indicated a desire to have the judicial ruling overturning Kansas’ anti-gay marriage ban put on hold until heard by the highest court.
There are many ways to read this decision. Perhaps the likeliest is that seven justices agree that the court is unlikely to rule with the Sixth Circuit that states may prohibit gay citizens from sharing the same access to civil proceedings as heterosexual citizens. Also, that only two justices are so vehemently anti-gay as to spitefully wish to force gay Kansans to wait for their day of equality.
Personally, I think it also suggests that this may not be a 5-4 decision when it is finally decided.
Meanwhile, also today a federal judge ruled that South Carolina’s anti-gay ban violates the constitution. He has placed a temporary stay until the 20th for that state to request a more permanent stay from either the Fourth Circuit or the Supreme Court. Based on the Kansas decision, it is safe to assume that such a stay will not be granted.