Wednesday, October 15, 2014
It's been more than a week since a flurry of gay marriage developments began with the Supreme Court's denial of appeals from five states, allowing for expansion of marriage rights. Shortly afterward, a federal court in the West struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada. Recent developments on same-sex marriage around the country:
The state of Alaska has asked a federal appeals court for a stay after a district court ruled earlier this week that the state's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. The state is hoping to block gay marriages before they can start Thursday while officials appeal the lower court's opinion. However, the same request was already denied by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess on Tuesday. Burgess recently struck down the ban, which voters passed in 1998. Gay couples statewide began applying for marriage licenses on Monday, starting a three-day clock before ceremonies can be held.
State Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has repeatedly called it her duty to defend the state's ban on gay marriage, now wants the state's highest court to decide whether it's legal. Her office filed a request late Monday with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami that asks the court to immediately send two consolidated cases to the Florida Supreme Court for a decision. In both cases, judges declared the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. It's not clear how soon the court could rule if it takes up the cases. There also is a separate federal case that could be decided before then.
Idaho gay couples celebrated across the state as county clerks began issuing same-sex marriage licenses at 9 a.m. Pacific Wednesday morning. Idaho leaders warned, however, that the fight over allowing gay marriage in one of the nation's most conservative states is not over. While Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said he would not appeal the 9th Circuit Court decision to lift the state's ban on gay marriage, he later promised that he would not give up defending Idaho's constitution which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal court to order Kansas to allow same-sex couples to wed while the group's lawsuit against the state constitution's ban is under review. The group argued in its filing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City that it is likely to prevail. It also said that denying the right to marry even for a short period would do irreparable harm to the two lesbian couples represented by the ACLU in the case. The group wants to immediately block the state from enforcing its gay marriage ban. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's spokeswoman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Gay marriage opponents filed a request Monday asking the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their case against same-sex unions in Nevada. In documents calling the issue "a question of historic importance," the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage claimed bias by a three-judge panel of the court that last week struck down a 2002 Nevada constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage. The coalition said a review before the full court is necessary because judges who were "favorably disposed to arguments for expanding the rights of gay men and lesbians" were assigned to the case. A spokesman for the appeals court has declined to comment.
A state magistrate in Pasquotank County will not face disciplinary action after refusing to marry two men following the end of North Carolina's gay marriage ban. Magistrate Gary Littleton declined on Monday to perform the couple's civil ceremony, citing his religious views that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But as of Tuesday, Chief District Judge Christopher Bean said no formal complaint had been filed, which means no investigation has started. Littleton's position conflicts with orders issued by the state Administrative Office of the Courts that all judicial personnel accommodate same-sex couples just as they would heterosexual couples following last week's ruling by a federal judge striking down the prohibition.
A second federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday in South Carolina asking for a judge to declare the state's constitutional ban illegal. The case was brought by a Charleston couple who applied for, but did not receive, a marriage license. Another case before a federal judge in Columbia wants South Carolina to recognize a gay marriage performed elsewhere. Gay marriage appeared imminent last week until the state Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina must wait for a ruling in the recognition case, which is advancing again after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear an appeal of a ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia by a federal appeals court that also has jurisdiction over South Carolina.