Movement toward same-sex marriage (SSM), LGBT equality etc.
U.S. Supreme Court accepts 4 SSM cases,
from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.
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.
This is a really BIG development! A watershed!
The nine justices of the court decided on JAN-16 to accept appeals from 15 plaintiffs in four cases originating from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
All of these states have state constitutions that have been amended to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. The bans also prohibit recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples that have been legally solemnized out-of-state. A panel of three judges at the U.S. 6th Circuit Courtof Appeal -- which has jurisdication over these four states -- upheld the bans in a vote of 2 to 1 by . In contrast, the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal had previously heard similar appeals from other states and declared the bans unconstitutional and void. This "circuit split" among the Circuit Courts undoubtedly contributed greatly to the decision by the high court to grant certiorari (hear appeals) to the four cases.
Because of the similarity among the four cases, they will be consolidated and heard together. It is likely that the combined case will be named Obergefell v. Hodges. Richard Hodges directs the Ohio Health Department which is responsible for registering marriages in that state. We expect that "Obergefell" will go down in history as of equally importance to Loving v. Virginia which was the previous case that redefined marriage in the U.S. That was decided by the high court almost a half century ago in 1967. It legalized marriages by interracial couples across the country.
Although all four cases deal with marriage by same-sex couples, they ask two different questions:
- The Michigan case (DeBoer v. Snyder, No. 14-571), was filed by April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. They are two nurses who are raising three special-needs children. The laws in their state do not allow both parents to adopt all three children. Each parent ended up adopting one or two children and being recogized by the state as only a friend of the other(s). Lack of recognition could be a life-or-death matter in the case of a medical emergency. The parents launched a lawsuit to allow them, as a couple, to adopt all three children.
District Court Judge Bernard Friedman suggested that their main problem was not with the adoption laws of Michigan. He recommended that they refile their complaint seeking permission to marry. If they could marry, then they could both be fully recognized as parents of all three of their children. Their case was argued on the basis of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which require governments to treat people equally.
During the testimony at the hearing in a Michigan District Court, two opposing views of laws in the U.S. were expressed:
This difference of opinion about democracy and change in the United States is replicated in dozens of SSM lawsuits and throughout the country. It all comes down to whether the United States is a pure democracy or a constitutional democracy. There is a liberal/conservative split on this matter. Unfortunatley, there is little or no dialog underway to resolve the matter.
- Assistant Attorney General Joseph Potchen said that the plaintiffs are doing a "wonderful job" raising three young adopted children. But he believes that an amendment to a state Constitution or activity by the state legislature -- not a federal court -- is how such matters should be resolved. He said:
"That is the appropriate forum for the change they are seeking."
He also said:
"There is no fundamental right to marry someone of the same sex. It's our position that the people of Michigan should decide this issue, not the federal courts."
- Attorney for the plaintiffs, Carole Stanyar, disagreed, saying that:
"Fundamental constitutional rights should not be subjected to popular election. This is the defining civil-rights issue of our time. This is the last remaining group in our society denied equal protection under the law." 6,7
INHO, Ms. Stanyar is wrong. Even if the marriage issue is resolved by the high court, there is still another group being denied equal protection: transgender persons and transsexuals.
- The Ohio case (Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556) and the Tennessee case (Tanco v. Haslam, No. 14-562) ask whether states must recognize marriages that have been legally solemnized out-of-state.
- The Kentucky case (Bourke v. Beshear, No. 14-574) raises both questions. Among the plaintiffs are four same-sex couples who had married out-of-state and wanted their marriages recognized in Kentucky. Also, two plaintiff couples are unmarried and wish to marry in Kentucky.
Same-sex marriage is currently available to 70% of the American population who live in one of the 36 states or the District of Columbia where marriage equality has been attained. It is currently banned in the above four states and in ten others.
The Justices have set various deadline for briefs and rebuttals, with the final documents to be filed with the high court on or before APR-17 at 2 PM. Hearings will be held in a 150 minute session, on APR-28.
4 Their ruling is expected in late June or early July.
- James Esseks, of the American Civil Liberties Union -- the largest group in the U.S. promoting equal rights for all -- said:
"This is the beginning of the end game on the freedom to marry."
- Chad Griffin, is president of the Human Rights Campaign -- the largest group promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. He said:
"We've reached the moment of truth. The facts are clear. The arguments have been heard by dozens of courts, and now the nine justices of the Supreme Court have an urgent opportunity to guarantee fairness for countless families, once and for all."
- James Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Ohio case said:
"I can't wait to walk up those steps and have the Supreme Court understand that we're just like everyone else."
- Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council said:
"Lower court judges have robbed millions of people of their voice and vote on society’s most fundamental relationship — marriage. There is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the courts to silence the people and impose a nationwide redefinition of marriage."
- Adam Liptak, writing for the New York Times, said:
"The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, positioning it to resolve one of the great civil rights questions in a generation before its current term ends in June. ..."
"The plaintiffs said they have a fundamental right to marry and to be treated as opposite-sex couples are, adding that bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties, and inflicted particular harm on their children.
The pace of change on same-sex marriage, in both popular opinion and in the courts, has no parallel in the nation’s history. ..."
In a remarkable and largely unbroken line of more than 40 decisions, state and federal courts relied on the [U.S. Supreme Court's] Windsor decision [of 2014-JUN-26] to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. 2
- Jon W. Davidson, the legal director of Lambda Legal.
"We are finally within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage."
- Tom Goldstein is a lawyer in Washington, DC who handles many cases before the Supreme Court. He said:
"It's impossible to overstate the historic significance of a decision on such a fundamental piece of our social fabric." 3
- Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, another group promoting marriage equality, said:
"The Supreme Court’s decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide, and it’s time."
- Bill Schuette, the Attorney General of Michigan, said:
"This case involves people of good will, sincerely motivated, on both sides. All of Michigan's voters, as well as the citizens of our nation, will be well served by the court's decision to decide this case and resolve such an important issue. Therefore, I am pleased that the Supreme Court has chosen to review this case, so that important issues involving the fundamental institution of marriage, our Constitution and the rights of voters will be decided." 4
A video supplied by NBC News:
It contains a 15 second advertisement and news coverage lasting 2.5 minutes:
Major developments are expected to continue later in 2015-JAN.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Richard Wolf, "Supreme Court agrees to rule on gay marriage," USA Today, 2015-JAN-16, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- Adam Liptak, "," New York Times, 2015-JAN-17, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- Pete Williams, "Supreme Court agrees to decide on gay marriage," NBC News, 2015-JAN-16, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
- Oralandar Brand-Williams, "Justices to rule on same-sex marriage," The Detroit News, 2015-JAN-16, at: http://www.detroitnews.com/
- Tresa Baldas and Gina Damron, "Michigan same-sex marriage plaintiffs: 'We're in awe'," Detroit Free Press, 2015-JAN-16, at: http://www.freep.com/
- Ed White, "Michigan Gay Marriage Ban Ruling On Hold For Supreme Court," 2013-MAR-07, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- John Wisely, "Michigan judge delays decision on gay marriage ban," USA Today, 2013-MAR-07, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JAN-16
Latest update: 2015-MAR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson