Same-Sex Marriages Proceed in Alabama as State Judge’s Order Is Defied

Robert Povilat, left, and Milton Persinger celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to stop same-sex marriages in Alabama. The couple were in line to be the first same-sex couple married in Mobile, Ala. Credit Dan Anderson/European Pressphoto Agency

Robert Povilat, left, and Milton Persinger celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to stop same-sex marriages in Alabama. The couple were in line to be the first same-sex couple married in Mobile, Ala. Credit Dan Anderson/European Pressphoto Agency

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Amid conflicting signals from federal courts and the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, some Alabama counties began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday in a legal showdown with echoes of the battles over desegregation in the 1960s.

In major county seats like Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville, gay couples lined up outside courthouses as they opened, and emerged smiling, licenses in hand, after being wed by clerks or by the judges themselves.

At the Jefferson County Courthouse here, Judge Michael G. Graffeo of Circuit Court officiated, at times tearfully, at the civil wedding of Dinah McCaryer and Olanda Smith, the first to emerge from the crowd of same-sex couples who lined up Monday morning. “I now pronounce Olanda and Dinah are married spouses, entitled to all rights and privileges, as well as all responsibilities, afforded and placed upon them by the State of Alabama,” Judge Graffeo said.

But in the small town of Troy, all was quiet at the Pike County Courthouse, where Judge Wes Allen of Probate Court, like his counterparts in some other counties, had decided that rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples, he would not grant marriage licenses to anyone. “We don’t have any appointments, and we have a sign up saying that we aren’t issuing any licenses at this time,” he said.

Same-sex couples waited for the Jefferson County courthouse doors to open on Monday in Birmingham. Credit Hal Yeager/Associated Press

Same-sex couples waited for the Jefferson County courthouse doors to open on Monday in Birmingham. Credit Hal Yeager/Associated Press

On Sunday night, the state’s chief justice, Roy S. Moore, sent an order to county Probate Court judges, telling them not to issue the licenses, in defiance of a Federal District Court ruling that is being appealed by the state. But on Monday morning, the United States Supreme Court refused to stay the District Court order pending the outcome of that appeal.

Chief Justice Moore’s position on the balance of federal and state power has deep resonance in a region with a history of claiming states’ rights in opposition to the federal government, and in a state where a governor, George Wallace, stood in a doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963 in an unsuccessful bid to block its federally ordered integration.

In his order to probate judges, Justice Moore cited the state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, approved by 81 percent of voters in 2006, and said that he, as chief administrator of the state courts, has authority over the probate courts. In interviews, he has argued that the state courts are not bound by the federal court’s order; in 2003, he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery, though it was moved over his objections.

Although much has changed from Wallace’s era, Chief Justice Moore had used a series of strongly worded letters and memorandums to insist that in the same-sex marriage case, the federal judge, Callie V. Granade, an appointee of President George W. Bush, had instigated a grave breach of law. The result has been a legal and cultural debate rife with overtones of history, closely held religious beliefs and a chronically bubbling mistrust of the federal government, playing out at Alabama’s courthouses.

As the weddings went ahead across much of the state, some Alabama officials lamented the Supreme Court decision, which denied a request by the Alabama attorney general to extend a hold on same-sex marriage. Judge Granade ruled in January that the Alabama ban was unconstitutional, but she put a hold on her order until Monday to give the state time to appeal.

”I regret the Supreme Court’s decision not to stay the Federal District Court’s ruling until the high court finally settles the issue this summer,” Attorney General Luther Strange, who had filed the motion, said in a statement. “In the absence of a stay, there will likely be more confusion in the coming months leading up to the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage.”

Here in Jefferson County, Judge Alan L. King of Probate Court said he had no hesitation, despite the Sunday night order on marriage licenses from Chief Justice Moore.

”At the end of the day, it’s still a very simple legal analysis: You’ve got a federal court order,” Judge King said in an interview as he watched the couples line up, near a white ribbon and red balloons.

He added: “This is a happy day for all of these couples, and if you can’t be happy for people, then I’m sorry. If someone can’t understand the joy and happiness of others, then I don’t know what else I can say.”

Monday’s marriages came despite a dramatic show of defiance toward the federal judiciary, announced in Chief Justice Moore’s order.

“Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent” with the Alabama Constitution or state law, Chief Justice Moore wrote in his order late Sunday.

Chief Justice Moore rose to national prominence in the early 2000s when he defied a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a Montgomery building and was subsequently ousted from his post leading the high court.He staged a political comeback, became chief justice again in 2013, and has in recent weeks said that Alabama’s probate judges are not bound by a federal trial court’s decisions. His argument has deep resonance in a place where a governor, George Wallace, stood in a doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963 in an unsuccessful bid to block its federally ordered integration.

Although much has changed from Wallace’s era, Chief Justice Moore had used a series of strongly worded letters and memorandums to insist that Judge Granade, an appointee of President George W. Bush who joined the federal bench in 2002, had instigated a grave breach of law.

The result had been a legal and cultural debate rife with overtones of history, closely held religious beliefs and a chronically bubbling mistrust of the federal government that was expected to play out at Alabama’s courthouses Monday.

The chief justice’s misgivings speak to widespread concerns here about federal overreach and same-sex marriage in Alabama, where about 81 percent of voters in 2006 supported a constitutional amendment banning gay nuptials. Few here doubt the force of Chief Justice Moore’s belief that Judge Granade’s orders hold only “persuasive authority,” and not binding power, on Alabama judges.

“My guess is, that is actually the way Roy Moore sincerely understands the federal-state relationship,” said Joseph Smith, a judicial politics expert at the University of Alabama. “He’s also an elected politician, and he knows who his constituency is.”

Despite Chief Justice Moore’s protests, some analysts see parallels between his arguments now and those Wallace advanced in his own time.

“It’s a very similar strain of ideology: the state’s rights, resisting the national tide, resisting liberal movements in policy,” Dr. Smith said.

Some legal scholars say that the chief justice may be correct in his interpretation of the immediate scope of the federal court’s rulings and how they apply to the probate judges. But his eagerness in pronouncing his views unnerved some in Alabama who feared that it might stir local judges to resist Judge Granade.

“I don’t want to see judges make the same mistakes that I think were made in this state 50 years ago, where you have state officials not abiding by federal orders,” said Judge Steven L. Reed of Montgomery County, who added, “The legacy always hangs over us until we show that we’re beyond it.”

For many here, it is unsurprising that Chief Justice Moore emerged as a strident voice in a social debate after the dispute about the Ten Commandments display, known as “Roy’s Rock,” forced him from power.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it makes for very good politics here to be seen as opposing federal intervention, whether it’s from a court or a federal agency,” said David G. Kennedy, who represents two women involved in a case that prompted Judge Granade’s decision. “The situation here is that this is not federal intervention. It’s not federal intervention at all. What it is, is a federal court declaring what same-sex couples’ rights are under the federal Constitution.”

Source:  NY Times, “Same-Sex Marriages Proceed in Alabama as State Judge’s Order Is Defied,” FEB. 9, 2015 (reporting from New York.)

2015 LGBT Lobby Day

2015 LGBT Lobby Day

Event Date: Feb 9, 2015

LGBT_LobbyDayJoin LGBT Coloradans and our allies at the State Capitol for our annual LGBT Lobby Day on February 9, 2015!

Sign up here:

When: Monday, February 9, 2015
Time: 8am-3pm
Where: Central Presbyterian Church
1660 Sherman Street, Denver, CO 80203

The only way we can shape the future of equality in Colorado is by making sure our elected representatives hear from us, so make sure you mark your calendar then sign up to join us. We’ll provide food and training. Hope to see you there!

Sponsored by One Colorado.

Federal judge strikes down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban

Cari Searcy, left, and Kim McKeand, who legally married six years ago in California, are pictured with their son Khaya Searcy, 8, on Tuesday November 11, 2014 in Mobile, Ala. State officials, citing Alabama's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, denied Searcy's second-parent adoption of the child. (Sharon Steinmann/

Cari Searcy, left, and Kim McKeand, who legally married six years ago in California, are pictured with their son Khaya Searcy, 8, on Tuesday November 11, 2014 in Mobile, Ala. State officials, citing Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, denied Searcy’s second-parent adoption of the child. (Sharon Steinmann/

A federal judge in Mobile on Friday struck down Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that a woman could not be denied her desire for a second-parent adoption of a 9-year-old boy whom she has helped raise since birth.

U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled that the Alabama Marriage Protection Act and the amendment that later enshrined it in the state constitution both were unconstitutional.

“It’s amazing. I was not expecting it at all (on Friday). Happy, happy news. I kind of expected them to sit on it because of the Supreme Court,” said Cari Searcy, one of the plaintiffs. “It’s so encouraging that we got a positive ruling from our home state.

“Love did win,” she added.

David Kennedy, an attorney for Mobile residents Searcy and Kim McKeand, praised the ruling.

“We’re obviously quite pleased with it,” he said. “It was the ruling that, frankly, we expected.”

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office indicated it would continue to fight the case. Late Friday, attorneys filed papers in court asking the judge to put the decision on hold.

Read Judge Granade’s ruling here

“We are disappointed and are reviewing the Federal District Court’s decision,” spokesman Mike Lewis said via email. “We expect to ask for a stay of the court’s judgment pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling which will ultimately decide this case.”

Other challenges pending

It is the first of several pending same-sex marriage cases in Alabama to be ruled on. The decision adds to a growing list of decisions across the country in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Careful review of the parties’ briefs and the substantial case law on the subject persuades the Court that the institution of marriage itself is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, and that the State must therefore convince the Court that its laws restricting the fundamental right to marry serve a compelling state interest,” Granade wrote in her 10-page order.

If Grande agrees to put the case on hold, Searcy will have to wait until the high court rules before she can become a legal parent to the boy. If the judge refuses, than Searcy could begin that process immediately.

Kennedy said his interpretation is that same-sex couple also would be able to marry statewide.

“Love did win.” — Cari Searcy

An attorney for April Brush and Ginger Aaron, the plaintiffs in one of the Alabama same-sex marriages that has yet to be decided, predicted a similar outcome.

“It’s so exciting. Precedence from the same state should have a compelling impact on our case in the Northern District,” said the attorney, Wendy Brooks Crew. “This judge clearly recognizes that family is family and that marriage is a fundamental right to all Americans – black, white, gay or straight and there is no compelling state interest to say otherwise.”

The judge’s ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a same-sex marriage case that supporters and opponents, alike, hope will settle the question once and for all.

The high court surprised many observers in October when it declined to hear appeals from a number of states. At the time, every appellate court that had considered the issue had ruled in favor of same-sex plaintiffs.

But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned lower court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee in November. The Supreme Court announced last week that it would review that case.

Granade, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, wrote that she considered the arguments of the Sixth Circuit but found more persuasive the legal reasoning of four other appellate courts in favor of same-sex marriage. She rejected Alabama’s argument that it has a legitimate interest in protecting ties between children and biological parents.

“The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children,” the judge wrote. “He proffers no justification for why it is that the provisions in question single out same-sex couples and prohibit them, and them alone, from marrying in order to meet that goal.”

Granade wrote that if anything, the state’s same-sex marriage ban detracted from its stated goal of providing the optimal environment for children. The children of same-sex parents are “just as worth of protection and recognition” by the state as the children of heterosexual parents, she wrote.

“In sum, the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama,” the ruling states.

Searcy and McKeand sued last year after Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, citing the state’s gay marriage ban, rejected Searcy’s adoption petition. They had been legally married in California.

Both sides in the case agreed that the petition would have been granted as a matter of routine if Searcy and McKeand had been a heterosexual married couple.

Kennedy, the women’s lawyer, said he would ask Granade not to stay the ruling so that his clients can follow through with the adoption immediately.

“Justice delayed is not really something we’re interested in,” he said. “We’re of the opinion that our clients have been waiting for a very long time.”

National, local reaction

Granade’s ruling drew cheers from gay marriage supporters nationally and in downtown Mobile and jeers from opponents.

“Judge Granade’s ruling today affirms what we already know to be true – that all loving, committed Alabama couples should have the right to marry,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a prepared statement. “As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a landmark case on marriage equality, today’s ruling joins the dozens and dozens of others that have recognized that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve equal treatment under the law.”

Ben Cooper, chairman of Equality Alabama, said in a statement that he was thankful the state’s “irrational” marriage law had been struck down.

“I am positive with this landmark decision there will be many questions,” he stated. “Yet opportunities now to reinforce and bring Alabama among its fellow states where equality is undeniably a reality.”

I am positive with this landmark decision there will be many questions. Yet opportunities now to reinforce and bring Alabama among its fellow states where equality is undeniably a reality.

At the Flip Side, the gay bar on South Conception Street in Mobile, many patrons welcomed the news.

Bob Brunson, the bartender, called the ruling “an awesome thing” and said he knows the couple personally.

“We’ve fought this battle for so many years,” Brunson said. “I think it’s incredible and very exciting, one step closer to equal rights.”

Dewayne Kemp, 42, called the decision a step forward.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “It’s going to happen when the U.S. Supreme Court votes it in. I don’t look to Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana to vote it in.”

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, blasted the ruling.

“It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act,” he said in a prepared statement. “The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”

Source:, “Federal judge strikes down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban,” By Brendan KirbyJanuary 23, 2015 at 5:56 PM, updated January 24, 2015 at 7:33 AM

Updated at 6:07 p.m. with comments from Searcy, Kennedy and the Attorney General’s Office. Updated at 7:05 p.m. with additional reaction to the ruling and at 7:30 p.m. with comments form Wendy Brooks Crew. Updated at 9:44 p.m. to embed the judge’s written order.

Reporters Kent Faulk and Casey Toner contributed to this report.

Transgender rights arrive at Capitol

Dr. Jude Harrison of La Plata Family Medicine says a surgery requirement for transgender people to change their birth certificate markers wouldn’t fit everyone. Not all transgender people choose surgery.

Dr. Jude Harrison of La Plata Family Medicine says a surgery requirement for transgender people to change their birth certificate markers wouldn’t fit everyone. Not all transgender people choose surgery.

DENVER – With gay marriage gaining acceptance in America, advocates in Colorado have set their sights on a new frontier – transgender rights.

The entire legal conundrum facing gay couples is not fully settled. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to tackle whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, with a ruling expected by June.

But for many Americans, the issue is settled after lower federal courts across the country ruled bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, including in Colorado, where same-sex marriage now is legal.

Given the progress, LGBT advocates now are focused on transgender issues.

A measure being proposed for Colorado – which likely will be introduced within the next two weeks – would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex marking on their birth certificates.

The current process requires sex-reassignment surgery in order to qualify. The legislation, which has been proposed by two openly gay lawmakers, also would include hormone treatment, among other “transitional” options.

“They identify how they identify, and they live their life how they identify, and they express their gender how they do, but the state shouldn’t have a requirement that we inspect your genitalia when you’ve made a private medical decision about your health,” said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, who will be sponsoring the measure along with Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

For Durango physician Jude Harrison, the issue is as personal as it gets. Harrison, who was born female, simply thought he was a tomboy. But as time went on, he realized he identified as a man. Now 61 years old, Harrison began hormone treatment in 2013.

“My being a man has nothing to do with what’s between my legs,” Harrison said.

He spoke of the legal issues he faces as a result of not having all government-issued documents match in the gender category. As a physician, this has affected licensing. It also comes up when Harrison travels, having to go through security and show identification.

“What one does to transition is going to be a different decision for every person, and for some people, they’re never going to do surgery; and so to have a requirement to have to do surgery to change your birth certificate marker doesn’t fit with what’s going to happen for a number of people for the rest of their lives,” Harrison said.

Dave Montez, executive director of Colorado LGBT advocacy group One Colorado, said transgender issues are important because they come with a host of health and safety issues, as well.

Studies have shown that trans people are subject to more harassment and bullying, resulting in high rates of depression and thoughts of suicide.

“With gay and lesbian people, we saw this incredible change, not just in laws, but in public perception, and we need to do that with transgender people, as well,” Montez said. “But in order to do that, we’ve got to reduce barriers.”

The battle, however, is uphill, especially in a divided Legislature where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats hold the House.

One Republican in the House already has introduced a measure that would allow locker room owners to restrict access to a changing space if the person is transgender.

Montez described the measure as being “engineered to drive up fear and confusion … in a hurtful, dishonest and dehumanizing way.”

But Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, said the issue is difficult for parents who have not had that conversation yet with their children. Even though a person might identify as a woman and use the women’s locker room, they still might have male genitalia, which could confuse small children sharing the same space.

“I would just hope that we wouldn’t have to expose especially young children that just haven’t learned yet,” Ransom said. “I want my children to have an understanding and tolerance of everybody. But I’m a protective mom.”

The state’s seven gay lawmakers – all Democrats – already are at odds with Republicans about other LGBT bills this year. One bill has been introduced by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, which would clean up conflicts in statute between civil unions and gay marriage, clarifying that one can’t marry someone in a civil union.

Republicans controlling the Senate have assigned the transgender measure to the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, widely known as a “kill committee” for unfavorable legislation by the controlling party.

“The only people that seem to be really hung up on it seem to work in this building,” Steadman said during an interview at the Colorado Capitol.

To be fair, House Democrats have assigned Ransom’s locker room bill to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, also considered a kill committee for controlling Democrats in that chamber.

But Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said gay-marriage issues are not for the Legislature to decide. Coram opposed civil unions in 2012, despite having a gay son.

He told The Durango Herald that if he was faced with a ballot question legalizing civil unions or gay marriage, he would have supported it. But he doesn’t believe it is the Legislature’s place to decide, especially after voters banned gay marriage.

“I just didn’t think the Legislature has the right to overturn what the voters have done,” Coram said.

Concerning the transgender bill, he said, “It doesn’t rise to the top of my priority list, but if this comes forward, and it passes, I don’t care.”

Source:  The Durango Herald, “Transgender rights arrive at Capitol: Bill would make it easier to amend birth certificates,”  By Peter Marcus, Herald Denver Bureau, Article Last Updated: Saturday, January 17, 2015 12:11pm

High court to hear gay marriage cases in April

WASHINGTON (AP) – Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court says it will decide whether same-sex couples nationwide have a right to marry under the Constitution.

The justices said Friday they will review an appellate ruling that upheld bans on same-sex unions in four states.

The case will be argued in April and a decision is expected by late June.

FILE – In this June 26, 2013, file photo, gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. The justices might have to decide to jump in at their closed-door conference on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, if they want to resolve the legal debate over gay marriage in the next few months. The justices would hear the case in April, the last month for oral arguments before the next term begins in October. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are among the 14 states where gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry.

The number of states that permit same-sex marriage has nearly doubled in three months as a result of federal and state court rulings. The justices’ decision last October to turn away same-sex marriage appeals allowed some of those rulings to take effect. Florida last week became the 36th state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The court is extending the time it usually allots for argument from an hour to two-and-a-half hours. The justices will consider two related questions. The first is whether the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The other is whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

The appeals before the court come from gay and lesbian plaintiffs in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The federal appeals court that oversees those four states upheld their same-sex marriage bans in November, reversing pro-gay rights rulings of federal judges in all four states.

Ten other states also prohibit such unions. In Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas, judges have struck down anti-gay marriage laws, but they remain in effect pending appeals. In Missouri, same-sex couples can marry in St. Louis and Kansas City only.

Louisiana is the only other state that has seen its gay marriage ban upheld by a federal judge. There have been no rulings on lawsuits in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Source: The Associated Press (AP), “High court to hear gay marriage cases in April,” by Mark Sherman,Jan 16 2015

The Supreme Court Is Likely To Set Up The Same-Sex Marriage Showdown On Friday

Getty Images/Alex Wong

Getty Images/Alex Wong

On Friday, the Supreme Court justices will be meeting to decide whether to hear a case — or multiple cases — challenging a ban on same-sex couples’ marriages.

This will be the second time the justices have considered whether to take any of the cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and/or Tennessee. When they did so on Jan. 9, they took no action on those cases, instead re-listing them for discussion on Friday.

This is a new practice by the court over the past year or so, re-listing cases they are considering taking once before accepting a case, called granting a writ of certiorari.

The justices did, however, deny an attempt by same-sex couples in Louisiana to have the Supreme Court hear their case before the appeals court — which heard their appeal on Jan. 9 — decided on the appeal.

Now, however, they are faced with choosing whether they will hear one or more of the four other cases — a decision that will foretell whether the justices intend to resolve the question of bans on marriage for same-sex couples nationwide by this June.

How did the justices get here?

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages to be unconstitutional. The court also dismissed an appeal of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 marriage ban on a technicality.

In striking down DOMA’s ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages in Edith Windsor’s case on June 26, 2013, however, the justices opened the floodgates for marriage equality.

Just short of six months later, on Dec. 20, 2013, a federal judge in Utah declared the state’s ban unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby refused to put his ruling on hold during the appeal, same-sex couples began marrying, and 2014 began with 18 states that allowed same-sex couples to marry. The Supreme Court eventually stepped in on Jan. 7, 2014 to stop marriages from proceeding while the case was appealed.

A year later, more than double as many states had marriage equality, with same-sex couples marrying in all of 35 states and in parts of two more.

Edie Windsor, left, and Roberta Kaplan speak onstage during the Pioneer’s Speakers Series at Paramount Screening Room at the Viacom Building on October 16, 2014 in New York City. Getty Images for Logo TV/Brad Barket

Marriage, marriage, everywhere.

The remarkable pace was the result of an unprecedented number of nearly unanimous opinions striking down state bans from Alaska to Wyoming to Florida and almost everywhere in between. For a time, in fact, it was only the one district court judge in Louisiana who upheld a state’s ban.

Several federal appeals courts began to weigh in over the summer of 2014, with Utah and Oklahoma’s bans being struck down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and then Virginia’s ban being struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals followed, striking down Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans.

The rulings in those states were on hold, though, until the Supreme Court announced on Oct. 6, 2014, that it would not be accepting any of the states’ appeals. The appeals court rulings would stand, and the bans had come to an end in those five states. Marriage equality spread to other states within those circuits, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it, too, was striking down bans — now in Idaho and Nevada.

Nevada officials were done fighting, but Idaho officials wanted to appeal the issue further. They asked the Supreme Court to keep the ruling on hold — as the justices had done with the first batch of cases. Now, though, things were different. The Supreme Court, after a short delay, denied Idaho’s request — giving no reasoning for their decision but sending ripples throughout the country.

More judges struck down more bans.

Then, on Nov. 6, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals broke the streak, upholding the bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, joined by Judge Deborah Cook, reversed the district court decisions in all four states — setting up the Supreme Court showdown that is likely to be announced on Friday.

Earlier in the year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had told people to keep an eye on the 6th Circuit ruling, noting that there would be more urgency for the Supreme Court to take a case if there was a circuit split — in other words, if the appeals courts disagreed on the issue.

Until the 6th Circuit ruling, the appeals courts were in agreement; after, a circuit split was created. In the weeks that followed, the plaintiffs in the various cases asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear their appeal.

April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse, are challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages. Getty Images/Bill Pugliano

What are the justices going to do?

The first rule of the Supreme Court is that there are, basically, no rules for the Supreme Court. The court can reverse prior decisions, and the court’s policies and practices can change if the justices so desire it. As a result of this, it’s difficult to know what the justices are going to do at any given moment.

With that giant caveat, the justices most likely are going to decide on Friday to take one or more cases for review this term — which would mean a decision would be expected by the end of June.

The pace and pure number of all of the cases making their way up the chain have, effectively, forced the justices’ hands on the matter. Even if they had hoped in 2013, by dismissing the California Prop 8 challenge, to put off the issue for another four or five years, the issue came back to them far more quickly than that. Even if they had hoped this past October, by denying certiorari in cases where the bans had been struck down, to put off the issue until next term, the 6th Circuit decision came quickly enough to bring the issue up to the justices a second time this term.

This time, there is no good way for the justices to dodge the issue. And, while the justices could keep re-listing the cases until it forces them into the next term, such a move seems unlikely given the current climate.

Assuming the justices are going to take at least one of the cases, they also must decide which one they will take.

The four cases in which plaintiffs are seeking certiorari are not the same.

In Michigan, a full trial was undertaken in response to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse’s challenge, who are seeking to be married in Michigan. This case is, in simpler terms, a marriage case.

In Ohio and Tennessee, on the other hand, the plaintiffs are seeking recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages granted by other states. In Ohio, James Obergefell is seeking recognition of his marriage to John Arthur on Arthur’s death certificate. Other plaintiffs in Ohio, including Brittni Rogers and Brittani Henry, are seeking recognition of their marriage on their children’s birth certificates and for other purposes. In Tennessee, plaintiffs, including Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, are seeking recognition of their marriages for a wide variety of purposes. The Tennessee plaintiffs also challenge whether Tennessee’s recognition ban violates their right to interstate travel.

In Kentucky, meanwhile, some plaintiffs, including Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, challenge the state’s marriage ban while other plaintiffs, including Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon, challenge the marriage recognition ban.

If the justices are looking to the lawyers to help them decide which case to take — an issue examined at length in a recent blockbuster Reuters report — then the Kentucky plaintiffs’ addition of Stanford Law School’s Jeffrey Fisher to their legal team and the Tennessee plaintiffs’ help from Ropes and Gray’s Douglas Hallward-Driemeier could be a bonus for their teams.

On the other hand, there are national LGBT advocacy group lawyers on all four cases, in addition to local counsel, many of whom have significant experience with LGBT legal issues: Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ Mary Bonauto is helping with the Michigan plaintiffs; Lambda Legal and the ACLU are assisting with the Ohio plaintiffs; National Center for Lesbian Rights lawyers are on the Tennessee plaintiffs’ case; and the ACLU is also helping with the Kentucky plaintiffs.

If the justices want the simplest case, with the most detailed record, in order to resolve the issue, the Michigan marriage case would be the case to take. If the justices want a single legal team that would present clear facts about both marriage and marriage recognition claims, then Kentucky is the way to go. Finally, the justices could take some combination of the four cases, either consolidating the cases to be heard as one, letting the lawyers figure out how argument time will be split, or hearing cases in succession.

In any event, after Friday’s conference, if a decision is made to take one or more cases, the decision is expected to be announced that afternoon.

There is a slight — but unlikely — possibility that the court could wait until Tuesday, Jan. 20, to announce whether it will be hearing a case, but that is unlikely. Usually, at this point in the court’s term, such an announcement would be expected Friday afternoon.

Then, if a case is accepted, the timeline starts for the filing of briefs by both sides and by outside parties, and arguments would be set — likely in April.

Finally, a decision would be expected before the court adjourns for its summer recess — usually by late June.


This post has been updated to clarify the Supreme Court’s dismissal of California’s Proposition 8 appeal. Jan. 15, 2015, at 12:44 a.m.

Source: BuzzFeed, “The Supreme Court Is Likely To Set Up The Same-Sex Marriage Showdown On Friday,”  posted on Jan. 14, 2015, at 10:25 p.m, 


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Support Their Kid Wearing Suits

**It shouldn’t take “celebrity” to raise awareness to these issues, but it does help to elevate the conversation to a level of consciousness.

Brangelina’s oldest biological child prefers suits to dresses, and wants to be called John. And the famous couple is totally cool with it.

John Jolie-Pitt at the premiere of 'Unbroken'

John Jolie-Pitt at the premiere of ‘Unbroken’

The oldest biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, named Shiloh and assigned female at birth, has for years been stepping out at red-carpet events and family outings with the multicultural family in sharp suits, boyish attire, and ever-shorter haircuts.

Around the age of 3, the now-8-year-old informed the family that they want to be called John — and everyone in the family has obliged, according to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. (As such, this article will use the name John Jolie-Pitt, as well.)

When Pitt recently walked the red carpet at the premiere of Jolie’s latest directorial effort,Unbroken, the star was accompanied by three of his children — Pax, Maddox, and John — all dressed in suits and ties.

Jolie first discussed her first-born’s tendency toward things generally considered masculine in 2010, when the Academy Award-winning actress toldVanity Fair that  her child “wants to be a boy. … She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

The Telegraph used its recent coverage of the Jolie-Pitt family to offer readers advice on how to respond to children of any age who express a desire to be a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Drawing on an interview with clinical psychologist Linda Blair, the newspaper stresses that it’s most important for parents to accept their child exactly as they are, and not overreact to what some could see as cross-gender tendencies.

It’s possible that children who consistently express a desire to be another gender (rather than simply a preference for toys and clothing commonly associated with the opposite gender) will grow up to be transgender or otherwise gender-nonconforming, but they may also just be exploring their own identity.

“To explore what it means to be both genders is also totally normal,” Blair told the Telegraph. “But the problem is we have suppressed it for so many generations, that people are still uncomfortable with it. You can’t become what you are until you know what you’re not.”

Whether the young Jolie-Pitt will grow up to identify anywhere along a gender-nonconforming or LGBT spectrum is impossible to tell, but one thing is certain — having parents that embrace a child’s curiosity, independence, and self-direction is sure to make that young person’s life easier as they go through the fundamentally human process of discovering who they truly are.

Editor’s note: This article uses “they” as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun in an effort to respect the young Jolie-Pitt’s gender identity, whatever that may end up being. 

Source: The Advocate Magazine, “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Support Their Kid Wearing Suits,” By Sunnivie Brydum, December 20, 2014, 2:53 PM ET

U.S. Supreme Court denies stay; same-sex marriage in Florida begins Jan. 6

Attorney Stephen Rosenthal, left, explains to the media the real-life consequences of the federal court ruling as Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, and same-sex couple, Carlos Andrade and husband, Christian Ulvert, right, stands near by. ACLU held a press conference in reaction a federal district court ruling the state's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Attorney Stephen Rosenthal, left, explains to the media the real-life consequences of the federal court ruling as Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, and same-sex couple, Carlos Andrade and husband, Christian Ulvert, right, stands near by. ACLU held a press conference in reaction a federal district court ruling the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Same-sex marriage will begin Jan. 6 in Florida — the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday evening denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s request to Justice Clarence Thomas that he extend a stay preventing the state from recognizing the marriages of eight gay and lesbian couples.

“The application for stay presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied,” the Supreme Court announced Friday night, allowing Florida to become the 36th state, plus the District of Columbia, to recognize same-sex marriage.

In a statement Friday night, Bondi conceded: “Tonight, the United States Supreme Court denied the State’s request for a stay in the case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of the ruling, it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on Jan. 5.”

The case, however, isn’t over. Legal arguments haven’t been heard before the 11th Circuit, which hasn’t ruled on the merits of the case.

Also still unresolved: whether clerks in the state’s 67 counties will adhere to the federal court ruling that declared Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. The law firm representing the clerks’ association has warned them they could be in violation of Florida law if they issue same-sex marriage licenses before the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue.

What was clear Friday night is that the Supreme Court refused to extend U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle’s stay allowing same-sex marriage to be recognized in Florida on Jan. 6.

“The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of allowing the injunction to go into effect after Jan. 5,” said attorney Stephen F. Rosenthal of the Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck, who is working with the ACLU of Florida in the case of eight same-sex couples and a Fort Myers widow seeking to have their out-of-state marriages recognized in Florida.

Said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida: “I’m hoping this was Bondi’s last stand. Congratulations to all the people we represented and our great legal team in this historic victory.”

In March, LGBT-rights group SAVE and eight same-sex couples who married elsewhere in the United States sued Florida to recognize their unions: Sloan Grimsley and Joyce Albu of Palm Beach Gardens; Lindsay Myers and Sarah Humlie of Pensacola; Chuck Hunziger and Bob Collier of Broward; Juan Del Hierro and Thomas Gantt Jr. of Miami; Christian Ulvert and Carlos Andrade of Miami; Richard Milstein and Eric Hankin of Miami; Robert Loupo and John Fitzgerald of Miami; and Denise Hueso and Sandra Jean Newson of Miami.

“We’re exhilarated. We’re over the moon. We’re so excited not just for us but for every other couple,” Milstein, a law partner at Akerman in Miami, said Friday night. “We’re beside ourselves. This is so exciting, so great.”

On April 10, the ACLU amended its complaint by adding another plaintiff: Arlene Goldberg of Fort Myers, whose wife, Carol Goldwasser, died March 13. Goldberg and Goldwasser had been partners for 47 years. They moved from the Bronx to Florida in 1989 and married in New York in October 2011. Hinkle ordered Goldwasser’s death certificate to be amended from single woman to married, opening the door for Social Security death benefits.

The ACLU suit eventually was consolidated with a similar federal case involving two couples in North Florida, one already married in Canada and the other wanting to wed.

On Aug. 21, Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled in favor of the couples, throwing out the gay-marriage ban in Florida’s Constitution — approved by 62 percent of voters in 2008 — calling it “an obvious pretext for discrimination.” He stayed his ruling until Jan. 5, giving Bondi time to appeal.

Bondi appealed the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The appeal hasn’t been heard, but on Dec. 3, three 11th Circuit judges denied Bondi’s request to extend the stay. Bondi this week turned to Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit. On Friday night, the high court issued a two-sentence denial of Bondi’s request, noting that justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia would have granted it.

According to the ACLU, once the stay is lifted, Florida must recognize all same-sex marriages performed out of state.

“Every same-sex couple that has been married in another state or another country will have their marriage recognized, and they will qualify for the benefits with marriage: health insurance, pensions, all the practical benefits that come with marriage,” Simon said. “That will happen 12:01 on Jan. 6.”

Also, same-sex couples will now be eligible for Social Security benefits, which are dependent on state laws, Simon said.

“We expect public officials in all of Florida’s 67 counties to understand the significance of this development and look forward to full implementation of Judge Hinkle’s decision across our state,” ACLU of Florida attorney Daniel Tilley said in a statement.

Still not known: Which Florida clerks will issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Top law firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents the Florida Association of Court Clerks, has advised them that only the clerk in Washington County, in rural North Florida — named in Florida’s federal gay-marriage lawsuit — would be bound by Hinkle’s ruling. All other Florida clerks who are not parties in the lawsuit could face “a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and a fine of not more than $1,000” if they went ahead and married same-sex couples, according to Greenberg Traurig.

Just before the Supreme Court ruled on the stay Friday night, Greenberg Traurig’s Miami-based co-president, Hilarie Bass, told the Miami Herald that the firm supports same-sex couples’ right to marry but made its recommendation to clerks based on Florida law.

South Florida clerks have been vague as to whether they would issue licenses to same-sex couples beginning Jan. 6.

Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin has said she wants to be the first clerk in Florida to marry a gay couple, according to spokesman Ron Saunders.

“I’m sure she’d be open to being a historic clerk,” Saunders said. “Amy Heavilin has personally approved us staying open longer than normal hours, and she will be the one to perform the ceremony.”

Broward Clerk Howard Forman has said his Fort Lauderdale office is ready to go. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said.

Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin says he will issue licenses if directed by the court.

“It is unfortunate that this change is happening in a confusing, inconsistent and somewhat frustrating manner, causing pain and loss of patience for many of our citizens,” Ruvin said in an email Wednesday to Palm Beach Clerk Sharon R. Bock. “In my view, our only option is to remain hopeful that the COURTS will resolve that confusion in a timely manner.”

Source: Miami Herald, “U.S. Supreme Court denies stay; same-sex marriage in Florida begins Jan. 6,” By Steve Rothaus, 12/19/2014 7:12 PM, 12/20/2014 8:45 AM

40 People Who Show 2014 Was a Year for Breaking Gender Rules

Ask anyone in LGBT media and they’ll you: Trans visibility is on the upswing in a huge way. Last year The Advocate established a dedicated Transgender channel on this site to better capture how much was and still is going on in the lives and art of trans movers and shakers. The result has been powerful.

Daily accounts of local or national political gains, achievements in arts or sports, and simple, sweet stories of pride and everyday family love have poured in throughout the year. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most bold, heartwarming, and eye-opening accomplishments from trans and gender-nonconforming people in 2014.

While there has also been an equal number of stories of tragedy — particularly in the ongoing epidemic of violence against trans women of color in the U.S. and worldwide — we’ve focused here on the increasing positive presence of trans people’s stories being told to an ever-larger public audience. Celebrating and elevating the lives of trans people is just one part of creating a world where antritrans violence is altogether eradictated.

To read on to learn about some of our heroes, please click here: the activists, artists, journalists, and everyday men and women who made 2014 one of the best years yet for trans visibility and equality.

Source: The Advocate, “40 People Who Show 2014 Was a Year for Breaking Gender Rules,” By Mitch Kellaway, December 15, 2014 6:00 AM ET

Winning the battle | Local gay couples tie knot after long wait for equality

Anita Blanchard, left, and Diane McMullin prepare dinner in their Durango home. They say they have been married in their hearts for 21 years. They were finally able to sign legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official.

Anita Blanchard, left, and Diane McMullin prepare dinner in their Durango home. They say they have been married in their hearts for 21 years. They were finally able to sign legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official.

Marriage equality has been decades in the making for local same-sex couples, but when it came to Colorado in October, they met the news with surprise and excitement.

Chris Gonzalez, left, and Nancy Fritz, hold a marriage license they got in October at the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office.

Chris Gonzalez, left, and Nancy Fritz, hold a marriage license they got in October at the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on same-sex marriage bans in five states Oct. 6, opening the door to gay marriage in Colorado.

Across the country, the scales seem to be tipping in favor of marriage equality. Same-sex marriage is legal in more than 30 states with judges striking down bans in Mississippi and Arkansas at the end of November.

In Texas, the county clerk for the San Antonio area said he was ready to start issuing licenses Wednesday, pending a decision by the judge for the western district of the state, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The national trend toward equality for gay couples is one locals appreciate.

“I think we’re winning the battle little by little,” said Patrick Valentine, who legally married his partner Oct. 8.

In May 2013, civil unions for same-sex couples became legal across Colorado.

“It was a step up, and it was good. It was not the same as getting married,” said Chris Gonzalez, who married her partner of 16 years in October.

Gonzalez and her wife, Nancy Fritz, went to the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office to get the paperwork for their marriage license Oct. 22. But when they entered the building, they got so excited at the prospect of finally being married that they signed the paperwork on the spot. It felt like a miracle, they said.

“We didn’t think we would ever see it,” Fritz said.

Durango residents Anita Blanchard and Diane McMullin said they have been married in their hearts for 21 years and signed the legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official in the eyes of the state. After decades of commitment, they were happy to have the same legal protections as straight couples.

“It has been a hard road when you look back on it,” McMullin said.

She realized that she was different as a child and later feared being kicked out of a rental home or losing her job because of her orientation.

It wasn’t until 1991, when she was in her early 50s, that she felt truly comfortable being open with everyone about her orientation.

“That’s a long time to hide something,” McMullin said.

The next year, she fought a state constitutional amendment, which would have prevented people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from claiming they were discriminated against, among other things.

Blanchard and McMullin said they were heartened when the amendment failed in La Plata County. The law passed statewide, but was later blocked by the courts.

They have long felt at home here. Even in the 1970s, Blanchard felt as though she had found allies in Durango.

Other local couples had very different personal journeys. Gonzalez and Fritz realized that they were gay after failed marriages.

For Gonzalez, it was simple.

“I would never marry a man again,” she said.

Fritz had an epiphany at a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays meeting. She decided to go after her daughter came out as a lesbian. Sitting there seeing a loving lesbian couple, something changed within her.

Two years later, she met Gonzalez, and the connection seemed natural.

“We understand each other better because we’re both women,” she said.

Valentine, who has been with his husband, Lawrence Broadway, for 15 years, had a similar experience. Until he was 50, he tried to live what he thought was an upstanding heterosexual life and worked at a major corporation.

“There was no place to come out without being ostracized,” he said.

When he came out, he found life far more refreshing. Now, years later, he sees the country shifting toward enshrining full equality.

“It’s time for everyone to have a share at a piece of the happiness pie,” he said.

Source: The Durango Herald, “Winning the battle | Local gay couples tie knot after long wait for equality,” By Mary Shinn Herald staff writer, Article Last Updated: Monday, December 08, 2014 10:34pm