Colorado ballot measure seeks to limit gay marriages as civil unions

DENVER, CO - JUNE 26: Stephanie Santorico, left, and her wife, Diane Santorico celebrate moments after they married on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol during a rally celebrating the Supreme Court's ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. June 26, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO – JUNE 26: Stephanie Santorico, left, and her wife, Diane Santorico celebrate moments after they married on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol during a rally celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. June 26, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

A proposed ballot initiative filed Thursday would redefine same-sex marriages in Colorado as civil unions. A second initiative would allow wedding-related businesses opposed to gay marriage to hire a contractor to serve the couples.

Keeping gay marriage out of Colorado could be difficult, if not impossible, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that same-sex couples have a right to marry nationwide.

Dave Montez, the executive director of One Colorado, the state’s largest advocacy group for gay rights, said the initiatives are an attempt to undo the Supreme Court decision.

“This initiative is an unnecessary attempt to radically redefine all marriages in Colorado in order to undermine the Supreme Court’s recent decision,” he said. “Even before last week’s Supreme Court decision, the 37 states that already had marriage equality had proven that when loving, committed, gay couples share in the freedom to marry, families are helped and no one is hurt.”

He added, “The freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all.”

The Colorado legislature approved civil unions in 2013, seven years after the state’s voters approved Amendment 43, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, with 56 percent in support.

Both ballot questions were filed by Gene Straub and D’Arcy Straub, both of Littleton. D’Arcy Straub is a lawyer. He could not be reached Friday, and his voice message said he was on a mountain-climbing trip. Gene Straub did not immediately return a phone call.

Each measure would need at least 98,492 verified signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot.

State Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, said the point of the gay marriage amendment is moot.

“I think this is more of a political statement than anything,” said Moreno, who serves on the Colorado House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. “You can’t override the Supreme Court, especially at the state level.”

Montez called the proposal “mean-spirited, vague and poorly written.”

“Allowing business owners to refuse service to customers whom they dislike, or disapprove, will open a can of worms and make it more difficult to enforce Colorado’s laws that ensure businesses are open to everyone,” he said.

The proposed constitutional amendment states, “A marriage is recognized as a form of religious expression of the people of Colorado that shall not be abridged through the state prescribing or recognizing any law that implicitly or explicitly defines a marriage in opposition or agreement with any particular religious belief.”

Any same-sex couple married before the proposed amendment takes effect or in another state would have their relationship redefined as a civil union, which carries some but not all of the legal rights of marriage.

The proposed change to state law on weddings would require the state to maintain a list of businesses willing to provide services to LGBT couples, so that those opposed could contract with them.

“That doesn’t change anything,” Moreno said. “You’re still treating people differently based on who they are.”

Legislation that resulted from two Denver-area bakers refusing to make cakes — a refusal by a baker to make cake for a gay couple, and another baker who refused to make an anti-gay cake — prompted a bill in the last legislative session to allow bakers or others to refuse service if the request violated their religious values.

The Straubs are scheduled to meet with the state Legislative Council staff on July 16 at the state Capitol to review the language of the proposals.

Source: Denver Post, “Colorado ballot measure seeks to limit gay marriages as civil unions” by Joey Bunch, POSTED:   07/03/2015 06:08:30 PM MDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO

Why ‘Gay Marriage’ Is Dead but the Battle Just Became Much Bigger

“Gay marriage,” as a term, is dead, and we should all stop using it. Ditto for “same-sex marriage.” As of Friday, June 26, with the majority decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a right for all Americans and there aren’t two different kinds. Generations will grow up calling marriage, whether between two men, two women or a man and a woman, the same thing: marriage. That’s a great and amazing effect of the ruling, and the implications are enormous for young people, who won’t see any delineation in the future.

But this is also where things get very complicated and even dangerous, and where we have to pay attention more than ever. When anti-equality conservatives can’t blatantly use bigotry or even name a group they’re targeting because of a profound cultural shift in favor of acceptance, they resort to the dog whistle. And we’ve seen this time and again around issues of race and gender as voting rights, affirmative action, and pay equity are attacked using coded language, while the more naked bigotry still plays out on the streets in the form of violence that coded language and symbols often still embolden.

“Religious liberty” is one term we’ve seen enemies of equality trotting out as code for the supposed threat of LGBT rights. I watched them testing it out over the past several years at gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Values Voters Summit. It will be a mantra moving forward, and they’ll surely come up with more.

I’ve seen too many self-assured articles in recent days claiming that the battles over abortion rights and even gun rights can’t be compared to the battle over gay marriage in discussing how things will proceed. Marriage as a right for gays, these arguments contend, will end as a debate, because opponents can’t claim that a right of another is infringed upon by it, or that there’s any harm to anyone else, as they do with abortion (pointing to the fetus or the woman herself) or gun rights (pointing to gun owners).

But I’ve found these arguments to be naïve and, more so, apples-and-oranges comparisons, particularly when they imply that the battle over LGBT rights and acceptance itself is finished while the battle over women’s rights continues. Yes, marriage as a right itself cannot be chipped away at or restricted in the way abortion has been. That’s true even though we’re seeing judges and clerks resisting marriage equality in these first days after the ruling. Every couple — gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight — must be able to marry after the high court’s ruling, and this will work its way out. States and localities that have resisted are already falling in line.

But just because gays and lesbians have the right to marry, does that mean that a particular county clerk or judge must perform it if it offends his or her religious convictions, and if that couple could go to some other clerk who would officiate over their wedding? A few weeks ago North Carolina legislators said “no” and passed a billoverriding the governor’s veto, allowing public officials to opt out of performing certain marriages based on their religious beliefs. The law doesn’t mention gays or gay marriage, but it allows discrimination based on “sincerely held religious objection.” Sure, this can’t apply to federally and state-protected groups, such as people of certain faiths or races, but LGBT people are not a protected group, federally or in the state of North Carolina, so the question is open. On the same day Michigan’s GOP governor signed a law allowing state-funded adoption agencies to turn away gay couples — who now have the right to marry in the state — based on the agencies’ religious beliefs. Again, the law doesn’t name gays and lesbians as a group, but clearly it was meant to apply to them, especially since it can’t apply to other protected groups, and gays and lesbians aren’t protected in Michigan.

And how do gays and lesbians actually get those protections in the 29 states where they don’t have them, even in pro-gay localities in those states where they might find support, since there are no federal protections? Well, Arkansas, for one, made that pretty difficult, passing a law last spring that anti-gay forces saw as a model, a law that doesn’t allow cities or towns to pass anti-discrimination ordinances protecting any group that doesn’t already have statewide protections. Again, the law doesn’t single out gays as a group; it uses wording that could allow it to stand up in court. These are the ways that anti-gay conservatives will continue to attempt to inhibit or restrict LGBT rights. And I’m sure they’re crafting others right now.

Justice Kennedy’s powerfully written majority decision in Obergefell, like those decisions he’s written in the past that support gay rights, doesn’t make it clear just how far-reaching the marriage decision is with regard to other rights, even as it talks much about dignity and equal protection under the law. As constitutional scholar Adam Winkler and others have noted, the court did not use “heightened scrutiny,” the highest standard with regard to discrimination, in its decision, though doing so would have done much to insure that cases that seek to sanction anti-LGBT discrimination aren’t even brought to court. Kennedy’s decision will likely be interpreted in a variety of ways by lower court judges, including those who want to allow for discrimination in the name of “religious liberty.”

The Hobby Lobby decision, which Kennedy joined, should give us all pause, as the court is far from abandoning the notion that discrimination based on religion is allowable. As Paul Waldman noted, Kennedy, in his marriage equality decision, referenced religious liberty, again with words that are open to interpretation:

[I]t must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

That means the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people beyond marriage will continue to be fought in the courts — including back at the Supreme Court, where we hope Justice Kennedy, if he hasn’t been replaced by a more conservative justice appointed by a Republican president, will be clearer on the issue, and in the state legislatures and Congress.

And we’ve got to stop the apples-and-oranges comparisons between abortion rights and LGBT rights. Abortion is just one among many rights that women have obtained, but one that is and has been in contention for a long time, as is pay equity, rape culture and others. But issues like suffrage or anti-discrimination protections for women are not. It’s unlikely that we’ll see any attempt to take away the vote for women anytime soon, just as it’s unlikely that marriage equality will ever go away now that it’s here. The fact is that women and minorities have secured some rights that are here to stay — different for each group — while other rights are still elusive or being stripped away. There is always a backlash to equality, and it could last a very long time, as bigotry doesn’t die easily. Like every group, LGBT people have to remain vigilant.

Michelangelo Signorile’s new book, It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: The Huffington Post Blog, “Why ‘Gay Marriage’ Is Dead but the Battle Just Became Much Bigger,” by , Gay Voices Editor-at-Large, Posted: 07/07/2015 12:47 pm EDT | Updated: 2 hours ago

Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory

Pooja Mandagere, left, and Natalie Thompson outside the Supreme Court following the 5-4 ruling by the court Friday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Pooja Mandagere, left, and Natalie Thompson outside the Supreme Court following the 5-4 ruling by the court Friday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

The decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage.

Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject.

“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

In a second dissent, Justice Scalia mocked Justice Kennedy’s soaring language.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”

As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion, several attendees seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned and exchanged embraces.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced.

Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

As in earlier civil rights cases, the Supreme Court had moved cautiously and methodically, laying careful judicial groundwork for a transformative decision.

As late as October, the justices ducked the issue, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The court did not agree to resolve the issue for the rest of the nation until January, in cases filed by gay and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the justices seemed sharply divided over what the Constitution has to say about same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said their clients had a fundamental right to marry and to equal protection, adding that the bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and inflicted particular harm on their children.

The Obama administration, which had gradually come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, was unequivocal in urging the justices to rule for the plaintiffs.

  Source:  The New York Times, “Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory.” by Adam Liptak, June 26, 2015

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.

UPDATE

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, 

 

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

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