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Religious Tolerance logo

Movement toward same-sex marriage (SSM), LGBT equality etc.

2015-FEB: Accelerating changes
involving same-sex marriage, LGBT equality, etc.
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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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Events from 2015-JAN-11 to 31 were described in in the previous essay

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  • 2015-FEB-01: Status of SSM in the U.S.:

Same-sex marriage is freely available to more than 70% of the American population in:

  • The District of Columbia,

  • Throughout 36 states including all the states bordering the Pacific Ocean, and all of the states along the Atlantic seaboard except for Georgia, and

  • In parts of Missouri. More information.

It remained unavailable in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

  • 2015-FEB-03: Michigan: Married couples are considered to be married:

Back in 2014-MAR, District Judge Bernard A Friedman issued his ruling in the DeBoer v. Snyder lawsuit legalizing same-sex marriage. A total of 323 same-sex couples were able to rush to their courthouse, obtain a marriage license, and marry before the ruling was stayed. The federal government subsequently extended access to 1,138 government plans, benefits, and protections for these couples and their children. However, the state later refused to recognize the marriages

On 2015-JAN-15, Michigan District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled that the 323 marriages were valid. He wrote that their marriages had:

    "... acquired a status that state officials may not ignore, absent some compelling interest."

However, he put a 21-day stay on this ruling to allow the state to appeal his decisions.

On 2015-FEB-03, all 11 Democrats in the Michigan Senate wrote a letter to Governor Rick Snyder (R) asking him to not appeal the District Court's decision.

The next day, Governor Snyder announced that he would not appeal the ruling. The couples' marriages are now considered valid, for now. Final resolution will be attained in mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to release its ruling on four SSM cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. More details.

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  • 2015-FEB-08: Alabama: Major chaos erupts:

During late January, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade issued summary judgments in two cases:

  • Searcy v. Strange which involved a lesbian couple, Cari D. Searcy & Kimberly McKeand. " "Strange" refers to Alabama's Attorney General Luther Strange (R). The couple was legally married in California during 2008. They want their marriage recognized in Alabama so that plaintiff/spouse Searcy would be able to adopt the son that they have raised together since his birth nine years ago to McKeand.

  • Strawser v. Strange which involved an unmarried gay couple, James Strawser and John Humphrey. They seek permission to marry in their home state of Alabama.

In both cases, Judge Granade ruled that the state constitutional amendment and the state marriage statute that ban same-sex marriage in Alabama are unconstitutional because they violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such a Constitutional violation would be legal if there were some important concern about two persons of the same sex marrying, but none were found. She temporarily stayed both of her rulings until FEB-09 to give the state an opportunity to appeal the cases to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state appealed both cases to a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court, asking that the District Court's stays be extended until mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in a consolidated case involving SSM in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Many commentators believe that this ruling will settle the SSM debate and conflict everywhere in the U.S., like the high court did in 1967 in the case Loving v. Virginia, when it legalized interracial marriage across the U.S. using the same 14th Amendment arguments.

The 11th Circuit Court refused the state's request.

In a last-ditch effort, Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to invoke its own stay. As FEB-09 approached, same-sex couples in Alabama -- some of whom have been together for three decades -- were hoping that the high court would not extend the stay. that would make it possible for them apply for marriage licenses and to marry. More details.

Late on FEB-08, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an instruction that ordered all probate judges to ignore the District Court's order to start issuing marriage licenses starting Monday morning. This caused a constitutional crisis in Alabama. Same-sex couples were only mildly inconvenienced by the agitation, wild claims, and confusion. In those counties where they were refused marriage licenses, they typically only had to drive to an adjacent country to obtain a license. More details.

  • 2015-FEB-09: Alabama: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to extend same-sex marriage stay in Alabama. Speculation widespread:

Early in the morning, Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court responded to the state's request for an extended stay. He wrote:

"The application for stay presented to JUSTICE THOMAS and by him referred to the Court is denied."

This final denial triggered widespread speculation that, as Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed wrote:

"Marriage equality Is coming to America this June. If there was any doubt left, Justice Clarence Thomas ended it ..."

"In denying the Alabama attorney general’s request to keep a U.S. District Court order that strikes down Alabama’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages on hold while the state appeals, the Supreme Court — even as it considers marriage cases from four other states — made it clear that the justices will not stop same-sex couples from marrying in the meantime when a judge strikes down a ban.

Justice Thomas indicated that both he and Justice Scalia favored a stay extension, but that the majority of Justices favored allowing the stay to run out and permit same-sex couples to marry in Alabama. There was no indication of how many other Justices voted for an extension.

As a result of Chief Justice Moore's intrusion, in some counties Probate Judges issued licenses to same-sex and opposite-sex couples in accordance with the District Court's ruling, In some counties they obeyed the state Constitution and issued licenses to only opposite-sex couples. In few counties, the Probate Judges closed down their marriage licensing function. However, sufficient counties obeyed the District Court's ruling that most same-sex couples were able to obtain licenses in their home county or an immediately adjoining county.

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  • 2015-FEB-11: USA: State Marriage Defense Act reintroduced in Congress:

U.S. Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and James Lankford (R-OK) have co-sponsored a bill introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). If passed, the State Marriage Defense Act would prohibit the federal government from recognizing any marriage that is not recognized by the state in which the couple resides. For example, if a same-sex couple was legally married in one of the 38 states or the District of Columbia, and returned to their state of residence where their marriage is not recognized, they could not receive any of the 1,138 federal benefits or protections given to married couples.

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance remarked that if the bill becomes law, it:

"... would nullify legally obtained same-gender marriages for couples who reside in or move to a state that does not recognize same-gender marriages.  'In some states, opposite-gender couples can get legally married although they might not be able to get legally married in their own state.  If they do, their marriage is recognized when they return home,' said Rev Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance. For example, first cousins can get married in Alabama, yet it is illegal to do so in Oklahoma. If two opposite-gender first cousins were married in Alabama and moved to Oklahoma, their marriage would be recognized, although it is illegal in Oklahoma for them to get married.

'States are already recognizing marriages of opposite-gender couples performed in other states, regardless of the laws of the home state of the couple.  Clearly, then, this legislation is nothing more than one more attempt to legalize discrimination against same-gender couples in response to judicial decisions that have held same-gender marriage to be legal under the US Constitution," Lawrence said'." 1

According to RawStory:

"The bill states that:

'the term ‘marriage’ shall not include any relationship which that State, territory, or possession does not recognize as a marriage, and the term ‘spouse’ shall not include an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that State, territory, or possession'." 2

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) has introduced a similar bill in the House.

  • 2015-FEB-19: Same-sex couple marries in Texas!:

Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas in recent years. 4 They have been together for three decades. Travis County District Judge David Wahlberg ruled in state court that they were allowed to marry. He based his decision on the usual grounds: the state's constitutional amendment violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A second consideration was that Sarah Goodfriend is currently in poor health because of ovarian cancer.

Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General has asked the Texas Supreme Court to review the case and, void their license, and to forcibly divorce them against their will.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry -- one of the leading national groups promoting marriage equality, said:

"This is a historic day for fairness and equality in Texas. The family that Suzanne and Sarah have built together over more than three decades of commitment to each other mirrors the love between so many same-sex couples in Texas, all of whom deserve the freedom to marry."

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This topic continues in the next essay with developments during early 2015-MAR.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is Disappointed in Inhofe and Lankford," Email, Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa, 2015-FEB-11.
  2. David Ferguson, "Ted Cruz submits bill to block federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples in red states," 2015-FEB-11, at: http://www.rawstory.com/

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-FEB-08
Latest update: 2015-FEB-23
Author: B.A. Robinson
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