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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 29 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 35
Marriage rights on trial: Action in several cases
Section One
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Marriage rights on trial: Action in several cases

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Virginia and North Carolina
AFER (the American Foundation for Equal Rights) filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on August 27, asking the justices to hear the Virginia marriage rights case Bostic v. Schaefer. Similar briefs have already been filed by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and by the anti-equality group Alliance Defending Freedom.

A federal district judge ruled on January 14 that Virginia laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred on July 28. Marriages were scheduled to begin on August 21, but the Supreme Court stayed the Fourth Circuit ruling.

'Forty-seven years ago, Mildred and Richard Loving passionately argued that the Supreme Court must end the unjust laws that dare to tell us who we can and cannot love,' AFER attorney Ted Olson said, referring to Loving v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court struck down state laws against interracial marriage.

'Today, almost half a century later, it is time thousands of gay and lesbian couples across America are extended that same promise of equality and freedom that the Supreme Court granted to the Lovings. Our plaintiffs have already fought for, in two separate courts, a constitutional promise they have been denied. Now, the Supreme Court must take up the Bostic case, answer once and for all the surpassingly important constitutional question of marriage equality, and rule decisively in favor of the fundamental right to marry for every same-sex couple.'

In a related development, also on August 27, a federal court stayed any further action on North Carolina's same-sex marriage battle until the Supreme Court rules on Virginia's Bostic case. According to the order, if the high court declines to hear Bostic, the stay will be lifted and action on the North Carolina suits will proceed.

Marriage rights activists delivered 12,000 petition signatures to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, asking him to stop defending his state's marriage ban.

McCrory, however, insisted that only the Supreme Court could decide on the question.

'We're going to let the process work. During that process we ought to have a stay to allow the current law to remain in place, but this is going to the Supreme Court for all the states,' the governor said.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he would no longer support the ban in court after the Fourth Circuit, which also has jurisdiction over North Carolina, ruled Virginia's ban unconstitutional in Bostic v. Schaefer.

Florida
In other marriage actions, a Florida state appeals court declined to rule in a marriage case, and asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether the state's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Local court judges in five Florida counties have declared state law invalid.

Equality Florida, the state's leading LGBT rights group, was pleased by the appellate court's action.

'This is what we've been asking for all along,' the group said in a statement.

'We're thrilled that the 2nd DCA [District Court of Appeals] agrees that marriage equality is an issue of such urgency and importance that it should be elevated directly to the Florida Supreme Court. We hope that the 3rd DCA in Miami will follow suit and request that the marriage cases pending before them also be moved directly to the Florida Supreme Court. We need a final resolution, not another appeal, because every day this discriminatory ban remains in place causes significant and irreparable harm to our families.'

A federal judge has also ruled Florida's marriage law unconstitutional, but he stayed his ruling pending appeal.

Ninth Circuit
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a petition from NOM (National Organization for Marriage) to halt same-sex marriages in Oregon. The August 27 ruling means that NOM must now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, if it wants to stop Oregon marriages.

A federal district judge struck down the Oregon ban on May 19, and Oregon's Governor and Attorney General declined to file an appeal.

'We're thrilled by the news but not surprised at all,' said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. 'There was never any merit to their proposal and they've been denied now at every turn.'

The Ninth Circuit Court also said it would hear marriage cases from three states - Hawaii, Idaho, and Nevada - on September 8.

The Hawaii suit is interesting because it has been overtaken by legislative action. Several Gay and Lesbian couples sued to overturn that state's ban on same-sex marriage in 2011. A federal district judge ruled against them, saying the law had a rational basis. They appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

However, Hawaii's legislature legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, so the point of the court decision would be that the new equal marriage law cannot legally be repealed.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) are teamed with local attorneys to represent four same-sex couples challenging Idaho laws banning marriage equality. Lambda Legal and local attorneys will represent eight same-sex couples challenging Nevada laws banning marriage.

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