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Posts for October, 2014

Marriages Have Begun

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2014

In Indiana:

Katie Burris, left, and Evangeline Cook are all smiles after they walk away with their marriage license, at the Marion County Clerk's office in the City/County building, Monday, October 6, 2014. (via Indianapolis Star)

“Katie Burris, left, and Evangeline Cook are all smiles after they walk away with their marriage license, at the Marion County Clerk’s office in the City/County building, Monday, October 6, 2014.” (via Indianapolis Star)

The Marion County Clerk’s Office and other counties have begun issuing marriage licenses for same-sex marriages.

…”Defending Indiana’s statute at trial and on appeal was our duty as attorney for our state government and was necessary,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “Our legal system is based on the bedrock principle that both sides in a dispute will be zealously represented by counsel who will advocate for their clients so that the courts can weigh the arguments and decide. Our constitutional process for testing the validity of statutes worked as intended, and Indiana’s legal defense has been conducted with civility and respect for all sides and within existing resources.”

In Oklahoma:

Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin — the Tulsa County couple that filed a federal challenge to Oklahoma’s ban a day after it was approved by voters in 2004 — were among the first couples to get a license. In Oklahoma County, the first couple to get a license was Lauren Marie Tidwell and Sara Michelle Yarbrough.

Which, of course, has political leaders upset:

Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith, who defended Oklahoma’s marriage ban after denying a license to Bishop and Baldwin, was represented by the Arizona-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Byron Babione, senior counsel for the group, said, “The court’s decision not to take up this issue now means that the marriage battle will continue. Several federal courts — including those in the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 11th circuits — still have cases working their way to the Supreme Court. (Alliance Defending Freedom) will continue to remain a leader in the critical effort for the freedom of the people. The people should decide this issue, not the courts.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt also criticized the court’s inaction.

“The will of the people has now been overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one,” Fallin said. “That is both undemocratic and a violation of states’ rights. Rather than allowing states to make their own policies that reflect the values and views of their residents, federal judges have inserted themselves into a state issue to pursue their own agendas.”

In Utah:

"Kelli Frame, left, and Suzanne Marelius become the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Complex on Monday morning." (via Salt Lake City Tribune)

“Kelli Frame, left, and Suzanne Marelius become the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Complex on Monday morning.” (via Salt Lake City Tribune)

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said marriage licenses would be immediately issued to same-sex couples.

“Not to issue one would be a violation of the 10th Circuit’s mandate and a violation of these couples’ constitutional rights,” Gill told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We’ve given the go-ahead to begin issuing [marriage] licenses right away.”

Gov. Gary Herbert said at a news conference that he sent a letter to his cabinet members ordering them to recognize all legally performed marriages, that gay couples can follow the same process as everyone else to get benefits.

“We are a nation of laws and we here in Utah, we’ll uphold the law,” Herbert said.

In Virginia:

Nicole Pries, Lindsey Oliver

Thirty-year-old Lindsey Oliver and 42-year-old Nicole Pries received the first same-sex marriage license issued from the Richmond Circuit Court Clerk’s office shortly after 1 p.m. Monday.

Upon leaving the courthouse, they were married by gay-rights advocate The Rev. Robin Gorsline.

The couple said Monday also was the anniversary of a commitment ceremony they held on a North Carolina beach three years ago.

And soon, in Wisconsin:

Speaking to reporters after a campaign event at a farm here, GOP Gov. Scott Walker said the state was abandoning its fight to keep its same-sex marriage ban.  … Asked if the U.S. Constitution should be amended to ban same-sex marriage, Walker downplayed the notion, saying, “I think it’s resolved.”

“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” Walker said of the fight over gay marriage. “Others will have to talk about the federal level.”

The Most Momentous Supreme Court Non-Decision Ever Made

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2014

EqualityChart

With today’s Supreme Court non-decision, about 53% of all Americans now live in jurisdictions with marriage equality. That’s twenty-four states and the District of Columbia. Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah will open their clerk offices to same-sex couples as soon as the various Federal District Courts go through their formalities. Those formalities are already out of the way in Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia and Utah. Things are happening so fast I wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana gets the go-ahead before I finish writing this post. Meanwhile, you can expect that Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will follow suit any day now, since they too are now bound by the decisions already handed down in the in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

The biggest wild card remains the Sixth Circuit, which heard oral arguments last August in a Michigan challenge to that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That court also heard oral arguments from four other states — Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — challenging those states’ bans on recognizing legal marriages from out of state. If the Sixth Circuit goes all contrarian and upholds any of those bans, then we could expect the issue to be dropped once again at the Supreme Court’s footsteps.

And to think that barely over a decade ago, our relationships were still criminalized in fourteen states.

Now, it’s possible that the three-judge panel in Cincinnati may rule against marriage equality. It’s also conceivable that a three-judge panel in the Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh Circuits could uphold a same-sex marriage ban in, say, Louisiana, for example.

But if one did, it seems much more likely that the entire circuit would step in for an en banc decision. But even if that didn’t happen, then sure, maybe an anti-equality decision could conceivably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But by then, some two-thirds or more of all Americans are likely to be living in marriage equality states. Would the Supreme Court go back and overturn all of that? That now seems preposterous. Today’s non-decision is the new law of the land.

Uh…..

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2014

ho·mo·phone: \ˈhä-mə-ˌfōn, ˈhō-\ noun : a word that is pronounced like another word but is different in meaning, origin, or spelling.

Like bear/bear or their/they’re/there.

“Homophone” doesn’t mean what Clarke Woodger, owner of a Provo-based English language learning center, thinks it means:

But when the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired.

As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw.

“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page.

Wooder, speaking of his English as a Second Language students,  told the Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly, “…People at this level of English … may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex. Makes cents to me.

Utah To Appeal Marriage Decision Directly To Supreme Court

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2014

After a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling striking down Utah’s marriage equality ban as unconstitutional, the state’s Attorney General’s office had two options: they could either seek an en banc review by all twelve judges of the Tenth Circuit, or they could appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Actually, they have three options: they could have decided not to appeal altogether, but they’ve never shown an inclination to consider that one.) Today, the  Attorney General’s office has announced its decision:

“To obtain clarity and resolution from the highest court, the Utah Attorney General’s Office will not seek en banc review of the Kitchen v. Herbert Tenth Circuit decision, but will file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United State Supreme Court in the coming weeks,” a news release said. “Attorney General Sean Reyes has a sworn duty to defend the laws of our state. Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest court deems otherwise.”

The Utah case now stands a very good chance of becoming the first marriage case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court since the high court last summer struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. That decision led to a wave of more than twenty court decisions since then striking down state marriage bans in more than twenty states.

World Congress of Families To Meet in Utah for 2015

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2014

The World Congress of Families, a project of the Rockford, Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and an officially designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has announced that it will be holding its 2015 Congress in Salt Lake City:

The World Congress of Families is to be held at the Little America and Grand America hotels in late October 2015. It’s an event that could attract a couple of thousand people, said Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, a Utah conservative think tank that is hosting the gathering.

Mero, who serves on the congress’ management committee and used to work for The Howard Center for Family Religion and Society, which founded the Congress, said Salt Lake City is the perfect place for the conference.

“I think there’s no better locale more focused on family as the fundamental unit of society than Utah,” Mero said. “I think Utah is exceptional in faith, family and in freedom.”

I am so there! Anyone with me?

The World Congress of Families typically holds its Congresses outside of the United States with the aim of exporting anti-gay rhetoric and other socially-conservative ideas to other countries. This year’s Congress, scheduled to take place in Moscow, was “suspended for the time being” after Russia invaded the Crimea. Not so much because WCF was dumbfounded that Russia would violate human rights on such a massive scale, but because U.S. and European Union sanctions “has raised questions about travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII .” The fact that WCF and its partners were happy to heap praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin for passing its so-called “homosexual propaganda” law should tell you everything you need to know about the WCF’s concerns over human rights.

Tenth Circuit Upholds Lower Court Ruling Against Utah’s Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2014

In a 2-1 decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the December Federal District Court ruling which found that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstituional. More significantly, the Appeals Court upheld the use of strict scrutiny in affirming the lower court’s decision. The appeals court also issued a stay pending an expected review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Writing for the majority, Judge Carlos Lucero begins his 65-page opinion:

Our commitment as Americans to the principles of liberty, due process of law, and equal protection of the laws is made live by our adherence to the Constitution of the United States of America. Historical challenges to these principles ultimately culminated in the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment nearly one-and-a-half centuries ago. This Amendment extends the guarantees of due process and equal protection to every person in every State of the Union. Those very principles are at issue yet again in this marriage equality appeal brought to us by the Governor and Attorney General of the State of Utah from an adverse ruling of the district court.

We are told that because they felt threatened by state-court opinions allowing same-sex marriage, Utah legislators and—by legislature-initiated action—the citizens of the State of Utah amended their statutes and state constitution in 2004 to ensure that the State “will not recognize, enforce, or give legal effect to any law” that provides “substantially equivalent” benefits to a marriage between two persons of the same sex as are allowed for two persons of the opposite sex. Utah Code § 30-1-4.1. These laws were also intended to assure non-recognition irrespective of how such a domestic union might be denominated, or where it may have been performed. …

Our Circuit has not previously considered the validity of same-sex marriage bans. When the seed of that question was initially presented to the United States Supreme Court in 1972, the Court did not consider the matter of such substantial moment as to present a justiciable federal question. Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) (per curiam). Since that date, the seed has grown, however. Last year the Court entertained the federal aspect of the issue in striking down § 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), yet left open the question presented to us now in full bloom: May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?

Having heard and carefully considered the argument of the litigants, we conclude that, consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so. We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm.

The Appeals Court turned to the Windsor decision, quoting from it extensively because “the similarity between the claims at issue in Windsor and those asserted by the plaintiffs in this case cannot be ignored.” It also cited Griswold v. Connecticut and Loving v. Virginia, among a number of other cases, in agreeing that marriage is a fundamental right.

We must reject appellants’ efforts to downplay the importance of the personal elements inherent in the institution of marriage, which they contend are “not the principal interests the State pursues by regulating marriage.” Rather than being “[m]utually exclusive” of the procreative potential of marriage, these freedoms—to choose one’s spouse, to decide whether to conceive or adopt a child, to publicly proclaim an enduring commitment to remain together through thick and thin—reinforce the childrearing family structure. Further, such freedoms support the dignity of each person, a factor emphasized by the Windsor Court.

The Appeals court nails the “procreative” argument, and cites Justice Scalia for good measure:

Instead of explaining why same-sex marriage qua same-sex marriage is undesirable, each of the appellants’ justifications rests fundamentally on a sleight of hand in which same-sex marriage is used as a proxy for a different characteristic shared by both same-sex and some opposite-sex couples. Same-sex marriage must be banned, appellants argue, because same-sex couples are not naturally procreative. But the state permits many other types of non-procreative couples to wed. See Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 605 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (“[W]hat justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples . . . ? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.”). Same-sex marriage  cannot be allowed, appellants assert, because it is better for children to be raised by biological parents. Yet adoptive parents, who have the full panoply of rights and duties of biological parents, are free to marry. See Utah Code § 78B-6-139 (adoptive parents have same rights and duties). As are opposite-sex couples who choose assisted reproduction. See §§ 78B-15-701 to 707 (providing rules for parental rights in cases of assisted reproduction); §§ 78B-15-801 to 809 (providing rules governing gestational agreements)

But that’s not to say the child-rearing is irrelevant to the question of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry:

The Court has repeatedly referenced the raising of children—rather than just their creation —- as a key factor in the inviolability of marital and familial choices. … Although cohabitating same-sex couples are prohibited from jointly adopting children under Utah law as a result of the same-sex marriage ban, Utah Code § 78B-6-117(3), the record shows that nearly 3,000 Utah children are being raised by same-sex couples. Thus childrearing, a liberty closely related to the right to marry, is one exercised by same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike, as well as by single individuals.

Children of same-sex couples may lack a biological connection to at least one parent, but “biological relationships are not [the] exclusive determina[nt] of the existence of a family.” Smith v. Org. of Foster Families for Equal. & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 843 (1977). …. As the Court in Windsor held, restrictions on same-sex marriage “humiliate[] tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” and “make[] it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” 133 S. Ct. at 2694. Such statutes “bring[] financial harm to children of same-sex couples . . . raise[] the cost of health care for families by taxing health benefits provided by employers to their workers’ same-sex spouses” and “den[y] or reduce[] benefits allowed to families upon the loss of a spouse and parent, benefits that are an integral part of family security.” Id. at 2695. These laws deny to the children of same-sex couples the recognition essential to stability, predictability, and dignity. Read literally, they prohibit the grant or recognition of any rights to such a family and discourage those children from being recognized as members of a family by their peers.

One argument that is often put forward by same-sex marriage opponents — and was put forward by the state of Utah — is that children “deserve” a mother and a father because “men and women parent children differently.” The Appeals Court quickly dispensed with that trope:

But a prohibition on same-sex marriage is not narrowly tailored toward the goal of encouraging gendered parenting styles. The state does not restrict the right to marry or its recognition of marriage based on compliance with any set of parenting roles, or even parenting quality. … Instead, every same-sex couple, regardless of parenting style, is barred from marriage and every opposite-sex couple, irrespective of parenting style, is permitted to marry. … As with appellants’ asserted procreation rationale, we are offered no coherent explanaiton for the state’s decision to impose disabilities only on one sublclass of those sharing a claimed deficiency.

Judge Jerome A. Holmes joined Lucero in the majority oppinion. In Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr.’s dissent, he took a hard line against the majority’s ruling. He held that the 1971 Baker v. Nelson, in which the U.S. Supreme Court summarily dismissed an early challenge to Minnesota’s law banning same-sex marriages, “foreclose the Plaintiffs’ claims, at least in this court.” Ignoring Windsor, he wrote that “A summary dismissal is a merits determination and a lower federal court should not come to an opposite conclusion on the issues presented.” He disagreed with the majority’s affirmation that Utah’s marriage ban violated the Equal Protection Clause or the Due Process Clause. He also argued that marriage was not a fundamental right because “were marriage a freestanding right without reference to the parties,Utah would be hard-pressed to prohibit marriages for minors under 15 and imposeconditions for other minors.” He also appealed to “tradition” in disagreeing with the majority’s ruling:

First, same-gender marriage is a very recent phenomenon; for centuries “marriage” has been universally understood to require two persons of opposite gender. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2689. Indeed, this case is better understood as an effort to extend marriage to persons of the same gender by redefining marriage. Second, nothing suggests that the term “marriage” as used in those cases had any meaning other than what was commonly understood for centuries. Courts do not decide what is not before them. That the Court did not refer to a “right to interracial marriage,” or a “right to inmate marriage” cannot obscure what was decided; the Supreme Court announced a right with objective meaning and contours. Third, given the ephemeral nature of substantive due process, recognition of fundamental rights requires a right deeply rooted in United Stateshistory and tradition, and a careful and precise definition of the right at issue. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720-21 (1997). Thus, contrary to Plaintiffs’contention, Aplee. Br. at 34 n.5, it is entirely appropriate for the State to characterize the right sought as one of “same-gender marriage” and focus attention on its recent development. Perhaps someday same-gender marriage will become part of this country’shistory and tradition, but that is not a choice this court should make.

Judge Kelly’s dissent soon begins to look more like something from the Family Research Council in his willful refusal to acknowledge evidence in defending his position:

No matter how many times we are reminded that (1) procreative ability and effective parenting are not prerequisites to opposite-gender marriage (exclusion of same-gender couples is under-inclusive), (2) it is doubtful that the behavior of opposite-gender couples is affected by same-gender marriage (lack of evidence), (3) the evidence is equivocal concerning the effects of gender diversity on parenting (lack of evidence) and (4) the present scheme disadvantages the children of same-gender couples (exclusion is over-inclusive), the State’s classification does not need to be perfect. It can be under-inclusive and over-inclusive and need only arguably serve the justifications urged by the State. It arguably does.

…The State has satisfied its burden on rational basis review. One only need consider the reams of sociological evidence urged by the parties and the scores of amicus briefs oneither side to know that the State’s position is (at the very least) arguable. It mostcertainly is not arbitrary, irrational, or based upon legislative facts that no electorate or legislature could conceivably believe. Though the Plaintiffs would weigh the interests of the State differently and discount the procreation, child-rearing, and caution rationales,that prerogative belongs to the electorate and their representatives. …(plurality opinion). We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings,imposing our views under the guise of constitutional interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Advocating for rights within the Utah GOP

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

The former executive director of the Utah Republican Party was at the state party convention this weekend advocating for gay rights. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Along with his wife Megan, DuBois attended Saturday’s state GOP Convention wearing a big Equality Utah sticker. The couple, who were not delegates, were there to mingle with old friends, some of whom did a double take when DuBois urged them to support legislation to ban housing and workplace discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Such bills have received little traction in the conservative, Republican-dominated Utah Legislature.

His message was simple and blunt.

“I’m not scared of gay people,” said DuBois, who left his party post last year. “You can be a really good Republican and support people who don’t fit the same mold as you.”

Let’s hope they’re very persuasive.

Utah Backs Away from Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2014

A brief filed last month by attorneys representing the State of Utah in its same-sex marriage appeal cited Mark Regnerus’s discredited study purporting to show that children raised by gay “parents” fared worse than children raised by straight parents. (In fact, Regnerus’s study consisted of only two children who had been raised from birth by same-sex parents; both children did “pretty good,” Regnerus admitted during his disastrous testimony before a Michigan court.) In the Utah brief, attorneys included Regnerus’s study as demonstrating that “even when they have two caregivers of the same sex, children who grow up without a father or a mother are socialized in a way that undermines their ability to function effectively in a dual-gender society.” They add, in a footnote:

Professor Regnerus’ study has been criticized by advocates of the “moms-and-dads-are-interchangeable” theory. But in his thorough response, he concludes that, even accounting for his critics’ concerns, the data “still reveal numerous differences between adult children who report maternal same-sex behavior (and residence with her partner) and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.

That brief was filed in February. Regnerus was fully shellacked on the witness stand in Michigan a month later. And when the ruling came down that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional,  US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman devoted several pages to smacking down Regnerus’s testimony and study.

So now it looks as though that whole episode has left the Utah lawyers feeling nervous. Yesterday, just a day before this morning’s oral arguments, they filed a “Supplemental Authority clarifying position re: Regnerus study”:

Utah files this supplemental letter in response to recent press reports and analysis of the study by Professor Mark Regnerus, which the State cited at footnotes 34 and 42 of its Opening Brief, and which addresses the debate over whether same-sex parenting produces child outcomes that are comparable to man-woman parenting.

First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.

Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.

So get this: Utah is going to argue that allowing gay people to marry will have a long-term impact on children of heterosexual parents.  Umm, yeah. Good luck with that.

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.

 

Utah to allow married tax filings for same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2014

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing, the Utah State Tax Commission has announced that same-sex couples who receive Federal recognition as “married” for income tax purposes may also file their Utah State Income Taxes jointly.

2013 UTAH INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX RETURNS

Same-sex couples who are eligible to file a joint federal income tax return and who elect to file jointly, may also file a joint 2013 Utah Individual Income Tax return as provided in Utah Code § 59-10-503. Eligible married couples may file a joint return if they are married as of the close of the tax year. (As of December 31, 2013, the Supreme Court had not yet issued its stay of the District Court’s injunction).

This applies only to the 2013 tax year.

Views about marriage in Utah

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2014

They might not be what you think they are. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Residents are now evenly split on whether same-sex couples in Utah should be allowed to get state-issued marriage licences — 48 percent for and 48 percent against — and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) said same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage.

NYTimes takes on Utah’s no-gay-marriage arguments

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2014

The New York Times takes on the arguments (three, so far) presented by the state of Utah as to why their ban on same-sex couples marrying is a legitimate state interest. It’s quite funny. Here’s their take on the second argument:

In the Supreme Court, state officials changed tack. They pressed a different argument, one built on a contested premise.

“A substantial body of social science research confirms,” the brief said, “that children generally fare best when reared by their two biological parents in a loving, low-conflict marriage.”

Lawyers for the couples challenging Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage responded that the assertion “is not true.” For evidence, they cited “the scientific consensus of every national health care organization charged with the welfare of children and adolescents,” and listed nine such groups. The view of the groups, the challengers said, “based on a significant and well-respected body of current research, is that children and adolescents raised by same-sex parents, with all things being equal, are as well-adjusted as children raised by opposite-sex couples.”

Utah responded that it would not be swayed by “politically correct trade associations,” referring to, among others, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. “We are not ruled by experts,” the state’s brief said.

Feds will recognize Utah marriages

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2014


In another twist in the Utah marriage battle, the Federal Government has weighed in on the legality of the nuptials performed in Utah’s marriage window. (NYTimes)

The Obama administration on Friday said that it would recognize as lawful the marriages of 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state government is refusing to do so.

“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder said in the video. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

This should not be seen as an affront to Utah. It is completely consistent with something that the state’s Attorney General said on Wednesday: (Fox13)

“I want to be clear that we are not saying those marriages are invalid,” Reyes said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. “However, as a state we cannot recognize those marriages.”

Reyes insisted that by refusing to recognize the marriages, the state was not effectively invalidating the unions by pointing to other states that recognize same-sex marriages.

“It’s not invalidating it in the same way that if they went to Hawaii, they could potentially apply for benefits there based on the marriage that took place. They can’t be recognized (here),” he said. “There is a very fine distinction, but a very important distinction based on those two things.”

It does, however, help force the hand of the courts a bit. To find that these marriages are invalid and had “never occurred” would be to cause a flood of confusion and administrative nightmares.

Hundreds of couples will be filing Federal income tax returns as married couples, there are likely even some who have made legal changes to their names and who will – by the time of the decision – have signed legal documents or established credit as married couples, and even some may have moved to states in which their marriages are fully recognized and may have availed themselves of state services.

Utah’s rather odd ruling about married couples

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2014

On December 20, 2013, Judge Richard Shelby determined that the anti-gay marriage laws of the State of Utah were in violation of the equal protections clause of the United States Constitution. And, as Shelby refused to grant a stay, same-sex marriages began immediately.

The state requested that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals grant a stay, and their request was denied. Finally, a request to the US Supreme Court resulted in a stay of Shelby’s ruling, but about 1,000 same-sex couples had married by the time that county clerks were instructed to deny new applicants for marriage licenses.

Now the state has issued instructions on how state services are to treat the married couples. It is a most inelegant decision:

Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.

In addition to being awkward and placing same-sex couples in extreme legal confusion, this may have been a strategic misstep on the part of the state. It places Utah in the position of treating people in exactly the same situation (same-sex couples married under Federal authority) in disparate ways.

The second problem with the Attorney General’s decision is that in many ways this closely mirrors the Proposition 8 scenario. In Hollingsworth v Perry, the Ninth Circuit found that you cannot grant rights to a group of people and then take those rights away. Here the state granted specific rights to married same-sex couples and then swooped in and took those specific rights away. And while the Ninth Circuit decision does not create precedent in the Tenth Circuit, it nevertheless will be given consideration.

Had Utah simply said, “if you got married, you are married; if you didn’t, you are not”, that would have been a clean and simple ruling. But by taking a “we will not give you one iota of protection that we haven’t already processed” stance, the state demonstrates a significant degree of hostility. And by doing so, they have strengthened both our argument that the banning of same-sex marriage is rooted in animus and our call for heightened scrutiny in legal decisions.

SCOTUS issues Utah stay (Updated)

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2014

NYTimes

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked further same-sex marriages in Utah while state officials appeal a decision allowing such unions.

The terse order, from the full court, issued a stay “pending final disposition” of an appeal to the federal appeals court in Denver. It offered no reasoning.

UPDATE from Jim B: Here’s the U.S. Supreme Court order (PDF: 27KB/1 page):

HERBERT, GOV. OF UT, ET AL. V. KITCHEN, DEREK, ET AL.

The application for stay presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted. The permanent injunction issued by the United States District Court for the District of Utah, case No. 2:13-cv-217, on December 20, 2013, is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Marriages entered into thus far are still in effect. There just won’t be any new ones for a while. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog speculates that “The order appeared to have the support of the full Court, since there were no noted dissents,” but “The order, however, cannot be interpreted as a dependable indication of how the Court will rule on the issue when it finally decides to do so directly.”

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will continue with its expidited review of the lower court decision. Brief submittals occur between January 27 and February 25. No date has been set for oral arguments.

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