In Historic Vote, Presbyterian Church Passes Measure Opening Doors to Marriage Equality

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), a church with nearly two million members, made history today by affirming the marriages of same-sex couples. By a 71-29% vote (429-175) the General Assembly passed an amendment to change the description of marriage in the PCUSA church constitution from a relationship between “a man and a woman” to that between “two people.” This amendment will only become church law when approved by a majority of the church’s 172 presbyteries.  At that time, all couples can be married in their home congregations. In another measure, by a 61-39% vote (371-238) the General Assembly passed an amendment now allowing clergy in marriage equality states to perform marriages.

“This is a giant step forward for the PCUSA Church and for people of faith everywhere.  Presbyterian LGBT couples are now one step closer to being able to get married in the church of their choice,” said Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program. “Perhaps even more significantly, young people and their families can go into a Presbyterian church and know that their denomination has not turned a blind eye to them but has instead taken a giant step toward becoming a more loving and more welcoming place for all people to worship.  We at HRC congratulate the Presbyterian Church (USA) on a job well done and thank the good people at More Light Presbyterian, The Covenant Network, So We May Freely Serve and Presbyterian Welcome for their years of dedication that got us to this point.”

The PCUSA General Assembly meets biennially and consists of commissioners elected by each of its 172 presbyteries nationwide. The proposal voted on today was originally submitted to the Assembly by the Oregon-based Presbytery of the Cascades. The written proposal explained:

“We believe that God created each of us with many differences, including sexual preferences, and that those differences are to be celebrated as part of the creative plan of God.”

The final vote took place after days of testimony and reflection, question and answer, and thoughtful meditation from the members of the General Assembly. HRC congratulates the Presbyterian Church USA on opening its doors to LGBT individuals, couples and families.

Groves added, “HRC remains committed to doing all we can to help the Presbyterian (USA) reach the finish line as it moves into the next phase of seeking approval from presbyteries around the country.” The Presbyterian Church (USA) joins other mainline churches in sanctioning same-sex marriage. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in February, 62% of mainline Protestants said they favor of marriage equality.

Source:  HRC Blog, “In Historic Vote, Presbyterian Church Passes Measure Opening Doors to Marriage Equality,” June 19, 2014 by HRC staff

Colorado judge considering two lawsuits skeptical of same-sex marriage ban

BRIGHTON, Colo. — Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban appeared to be on thin ice Monday after a judge considering two lawsuits against the law pointed out that 15 other judges have recently struck down similar bans in other states.

Those rulings followed the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year ordering the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages approved by states, District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree said at a hearing.

A lawyer from the Colorado attorney general’s office, which is defending the ban, argued that the justices’ ruling has been misread, to which Crabtree replied, “They got it all wrong?”

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Crabtree was openly skeptical of the state’s arguments that the 2006 voter-approved ban protects the procreative nature of marriage. He mentioned two of his friends who are marrying this summer at age 65.

“Their marriage is not about having any more kids,” he quipped.

Crabtree heard arguments in lawsuits filed by one couple in Adams County and eight in Denver who are seeking to be recognized as married couples in Colorado. He said he would issue a written decision rather than rule from the bench and noted that his decision will likely be appealed all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Several of the rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in other states have been put on hold, Crabtree said, suggesting the judge might prevent any ruling from going into effect until appeals are exhausted.

Attorney General John Suthers’ office defied calls by some activists to follow the examples of attorneys general in seven other states who have declined to defend their state prohibitions.

Assistant Solicitor General Michael Francisco warned the judge that no one knows what the true impact could be of overturning the Colorado’s ban.

“It will have real-world consequences,” Francisco said, comparing it to state laws passed 40 years ago making divorce easier.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office did not take a side in the case. The governor’s chief lawyer, Jack Finlaw, said in court that the governor upholds the law but opposed the ban when it was on the ballot in 2006. He urged a ruling “respectful of the rights of all Coloradans.”

Ralph Ogden, an attorney representing one of the couples, said the ban “has created two classes of citizens: One can be married, the other cannot.”

But Francisco said Colorado voters have the ability to make that distinction. He told Crabtree that the judges who have struck down gay marriage bans elsewhere are guessing that the U.S. Supreme Court will declare gay marriage a constitutional right, but it is not the job of lower court judges to predict such a ruling.

The two cases are: McDaniel-Miccio v. Colorado and Brinkman v. Long.

Source:  LGBTQ Nation, “Colorado judge considering two lawsuits skeptical of same-sex marriage ban,” by Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, Monday, June 16, 2014

With Federal Court Ruling, Wisconsin’s Marriage Ban Becomes the Latest to Fall

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Today U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled against Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, making Wisconsin the twelfth state to see such a ban struck down in federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June.  In Wolf v. Walker, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP sued the state on behalf of four couples seeking to marry, arguing that the Wisconsin’s ban on marriage equality violates the couples’ due process and equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Recently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker began distancing himself from the state’s marriage ban, saying he didn’t know if it violated the U.S. Constitution or if voters in his state would approve it today.  However, state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen filed a motion in court earlier this month asking the judge to stay her decision if she rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

“Where you live should never limit your ability to marry the person you love,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.  “All across the country, from coast to coast and everywhere in between, judges are striking marriage discrimination from the books using the U.S. Constitution as their guide.  Because of the couples who brought this case, their attorneys with the ACLU and Mayer Brown LLP, and the hundreds of plaintiffs challenging marriage bans across the country, we as a nation are closer than ever before to full equality under the law.”

A May 2014 Marquette University Law School poll showed 55 percent of registered Wisconsin voters favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. Today’s ruling in Wisconsin coincides with the release of new poll results by the Washington Post and ABC News which show that 50 percent of Americans believe that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. Additionally, 56 percent of Americans and 77 percent of those under the age of thirty support marriage rights for same-sex couples.  Today’s results are the latest in an ever-expanding trend showing Americans moving inexorably in the direction of supporting equality for same-sex couples.

There are at least 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 states and Puerto Rico.  So far five federal appeals courts are presiding over 10 marriage equality cases over the coming weeks and months. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, no state marriage ban has survived a court challenge.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

#RuralPride Campaign

RuralPrideLandingPageImageUpdate

LGBT people and their families are part of every single geographic region in this country, including rural communities and small towns across the U.S. Contrary to myths that the LGBT community lives exclusively in metropolitan areas, members of our community are proudly living, working, raising children, going to school, and making homes for themselves and their families in rural America.

The #RuralPride campaign is a partnership between NCLR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed at increasing visibility of the LGBT community in rural America and identifying ways we can use federal advocacy to increase access to crucial services and resources for LGBT rural people and families.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a series of Rural Summits that will provide an opportunity to discuss the unique needs and vulnerabilities of the LGBT rural community with federal policymakers. Join us in this campaign and show your #RuralPride.

 

LEARN MORE  

ruralPrideoverviewOVERVIEW
In an effort to elevate the voices of the LGBT community living in rural America, USDA and the National Center for Lesbian Rights launched the #RuralPride campaign.
Learn more.

 

CalendarFinal LGBT SUMMIT SERIES CALENDAR
The centerpiece of the #RuralPride campaign is a series of day-long summits hosted by USDA, NCLR, the True Colors Fund, and a number of partners organizations in rural communities across the country.
Learn more.

 

RuralPride_storiesSHARE YOUR STORY
Are you LGBT and living in a rural community? Show us your #RuralPride! Share your story and you’ll help us to put a real face on the rural LGBT community across the country and shape the conversation.
Learn more.

 

ToolkitResourcesFinalREPORTS, RESOURCES & LINKS
Explore reports and learn more about the needs of the LGBT community in rural America.

Learn more.

 

 

Source: NCLR, #RuralPride Campaign, May 2014

Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Ban on Gay Marriage

Continuing a rush of rulings that have struck down marriage limits across the country, a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III of Federal District Court in a decision posted on Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Jones, who is based in Harrisburg, Pa., was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.

Judge Jones did not issue a stay, writing, “By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania is the last of the Northeast states with a ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Tom Corbett did not immediately say whether he would ask the Federal Circuit Court in Philadelphia to delay enforcement pending an appeal, and gay rights advocates said they hoped that marriages would start as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Ashley Wilson, left, and Lindsay Vandermay, right, kiss after getting their marriage license on Tuesday. Credit Matt Slocum/Associated Press

 

Couples began rushing to obtain marriage licenses soon after the ruling was announced, according to media reports.

In the last several months, judges have struck down marriage limits in seven states: Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Idaho and, on Monday, Oregon. Courts in several more have said that states must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside their borders.

In most of the cases, courts have delayed implementation until appeals can be argued in federal circuit courts and, perhaps, the Supreme Court. But in Oregon, state officials said they would not appeal, and for now, Oregon becomes the 18th state, plus the District of Columbia, to authorize the marriage of gay and lesbian couples.

The lawsuit in Pennsylvania, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 couples, a widow and two teenage children of one couple, is one of more than 70 cases filed around the country since the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last June.

“It’s kind of overwhelming, and wonderful at the same time,” said James D. Esseks, director of the union’s gay rights programs, who is involved in 11 marriage cases at once. Mr. Esseks said he expected decisions within the next few weeks on similar challenges in Wisconsin and Florida.

After the Pennsylvania case was filed last summer, state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, announced that she would not defend the restrictive marriage law, which was adopted by the legislature in 2006. Mr. Corbett, a Republican, hired private lawyers to argue on behalf of state officials named in the suit.

The state put forth arguments that have repeatedly been rejected by the courts. It argued that the legislature had chosen to protect traditional heterosexual marriage and that nothing in the Constitution established a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, which is not rooted in history and tradition.

The state also argued that a 1972 decision, Baker v. Nelson, in which the Supreme Court declined to review a challenge to a state gay-marriage ban, remains the guiding legal case and that last year’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, holding that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in the states, was actually an endorsement of states’ rights.

But a succession of federal judges, now including Judge Jones in Pennsylvania, have instead relied on the Supreme Court’s finding last year that same-sex marriage bans were fueled by animus and inflicted stigma on gay and lesbian families.

“The plaintiff couples have shared in life’s joys,” Judge Jones wrote in Tuesday’s decision, one of several in federal courts recently that have elicited soaring prose from the judges. But the couples have also shared financial, legal and personal hardships resulting from state discrimination, he went on to say.

He quoted one plaintiff, Deb Whitewood, who told the court: “It sends the message to our children that their family is less deserving of respect and support than other families. That’s a hurtful message.”

Judge Jones, in his ruling, said: “We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country, which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.”

 

Postal Service to dedicate Harvey Milk stamp at the White House this month

This undated handout image provided by the US Postal Service shows the commemorative forever stamp featuring gay-rights activist Harvey Milk. (AP Photo/USPS)

This undated handout image provided by the U.S. Postal Service shows the commemorative forever stamp featuring gay-rights activist Harvey Milk. (AP Photo/USPS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Postal Service will dedicate its soon-to-be-released Harvey Milk stamp during a ceremony at the White House later this month, according to a White House announcement.

The event is scheduled to take place on May 22, the first day the Postal Service plans to issue the stamp commemorating one of the nation’s gay-rights pioneers.

Another ceremony will take place on May 28 in San Francisco.

Customers can pre-order the new stamp through the USPS Web site in order to receive it on the release date.

Milk won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.

The Postal Service said in an announcement that Milk’s achievements “gave hope and confidence to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination.”

A gunman assassinated Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone in November 1978, less than one year after Milk took office.

Federal judge strikes down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage

Oregon state officials have said they’d be prepared to issue same-sex marriage licenses almost immediately; couples are lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland

EUGENE, Ore. — A federal judge on Monday struck down Oregon’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, saying it is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the ban unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and ordered the state not to enforce it. State officials earlier refused to defend the constitutional ban in court.

McShane joined judges in seven other states who have struck down gay marriage bans, though appeals are underway.

Oregon state officials have said they’d be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately, and couples lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland in anticipation of the McShane’s decision.

Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom arrived early Monday at the Multnomah County Building to form the line for marriage licenses. The two have been a couple for 10 years. Engbloom proposed in April, when they celebrated their anniversary by climbing Smith Rock in Cen tral Oregon.

“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown said. “This opportunity has come, it feels right, everything has fallen into place.”

Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon cases, arguing the state’s marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.

Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refused to defend the ban, saying there are no legal arguments that could support it in light of decisions last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. She sided with the couples, asking the judge to overturn the ban, and says she won’t appeal.

The judge denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused the group’s request for an emergency stay of that decision, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed.

Gay rights groups previously said they’ve collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November. But they said they would discard the signatures and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process.

In addition to Oregon, federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

But opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics note most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.

Oregon law has long prohibited same-sex marriage, and voters added the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Multnomah is the state’s largest county and includes Portland.

About 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge halted the practice. The Oregon Supreme Court later invalidated the marriages.

Oregon joins the growing list of states where federal or state judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional; among them: Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The decision is here.

Source:  LGBTQ Nation, “Federal judge strikes down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage,” by , May 19, 2014