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What we have to look forward to in 2014

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials P8TT fundraising

As I wrote last week in opening our 2014 fundraising push, this last year has been an incredible, historic one for marriage equality.  And 2014 promises to be just as significant for equal marriage rights, with cases teed up across the country challenging state-based bans and laying the groundwork for eventual, nationwide marriage equality.

Your support is vital to helping us continue our coverage in the new year. Please chip in whatever you can to ensure that we will be able to cover the many victories — both expected and unexpected — that are sure to come next year.  Here’s a look at just a few major cases that are likely to make big news in 2014.

Of course, the furthest action currently pending in the courts are the consolidated appeals of Sevcik v. Sandoval and Jackson v. Abercrombie, cases out of Nevada and Hawaii respectively in which district court judges upheld the constitutionality of state bans on marriage equality.

We’ve been following the cases from their very inception, and while Hawaii now has equal marriage rights for same-sex couples–essentially making the Jackson challenge moot–Nevada only allows couples to enter into domestic partnerships.  There have been recent requests for time extensions in Sevcik, but the case is almost certain to proceed to merits arguments in 2014 before the Ninth Circuit, and could very well be the next case that brings marriage equality to the Supreme Court (in fact, supporters of Nevada’s equal marriage ban have already appealed the case to the high court–unsuccessfully, so far).

Even if the high court doesn’t hear the challenge, a pro-marriage equality Ninth Circuit ruling would bring equal marriage rights to Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Oregon–a huge expansion, including some very conservative states.  (Three states covered by the Ninth Circuit–California, Washington and Hawaii–already allow same sex-couples to wed.)  To put it simply, this is a very big case to watch.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the other big case to watch currently is Kitchen v. Herbert, a challenge against Utah’s marriage equality ban that rocketed into the news just last week when a district court judge struck down that ban and both he and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay his ruling.  State officials are currently preparing a stay request with the U.S. Supreme Court, which would either be considered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor or the full court.  If the high court refuses to issue a stay (which certainly seems possible at this juncture), couples in Utah will continue to be allowed to wed until the Tenth Circuit issues a ruling on the lower court’s decision.  As with Sevcik, a pro-marriage equality ruling at the circuit level in Kitchen would bring equal marriage rights to five new states–Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Several other cases seem poised to make waves at the district court level.  In February, a district court judge in Michigan will preside over a trial in a marriage equality case brought by two couples, and seems likely to issue a decision–quite possibly a pro-marriage equality one–in the months after.  An Ohio judge issued a narrow ruling invalidating part of that state’s equal marriage ban, but appears very open to considering further litigation to consider the ban in its entirety.  And, of course, there are myriad challenges all over the country to individual state’s marriage bans, any of which could flare into significance the way that Utah’s did last week.

We here at EqualityOnTrial believe there is so much to look forward to next year in the courts, especially since any case could be the one that brings marriage equality to all 50 states. We are committed to maintaining that position and to bringing you the best coverage possible of LGBT court cases in the U.S.—coverage that is in-depth and detailed but also easily understandable and accessible.  But we need your help to do so.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to EqualityOnTrial before the year ends to help us continue this mission.  Any amount helps, and you can make a contribution either on your own behalf or to honor of a friend or loved one as a holiday gift.  There are only two days left to make your tax-deductible donation count for 2013.  Please lend us your support as the year comes to a close.

21 Comments

  • 1. ebohlman  |  December 30, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I had a scary thought last night: if there's an unfavorable decision in Sevcik, it could conceivable reinstate Proposition 8, since it's only currently being struck down by a district-level decision that effectively was never reviewed by a higher court. Doubt it's very likely, but doesn't sound impossible.

    It's also possible (and much more likely) that the 9th could issue a favorable decision that would only affect Nevada and Oregon if it's narrowly based on the question of whether civil unions are adequate.

  • 2. Bruno71  |  December 30, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I just don't see any possibility of an unfavorable decision out of the 9th, especially en banc.

  • 3. Straight Ally #3008  |  December 30, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Nevada and Oregon also wouldn't be very controversial, as the marriage bans are pretty much doomed to fall by voter initiatives in both states, it just speeds up the process by a year or three.

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  December 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

    What case will cause a 'surprise' victory?

    How many predicted that Utah could/would be added to the list of states allowing ME (even if only temporarily, although I think it will be permanent), without SCOTUS causing it? I've not seen, and don't expect to see, any headlines that Utah (or other ME jurisdiction) suddenly disappeared off the map.

  • 5. Straight Dave  |  December 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

    The 5th Circuit ruling favorably on a TX case would be a major surprise to me – I dare say shocking! Then you could definitely start singing "Turn out the lights, the party's over", emulating that old Dallas Cowboy Don Meredith. I really do hope someone makes a video of that, would be so awesome. That would cause everyone but MS to fold their tent. MS would still need another 100 years to get over it.

  • 6. Stefan  |  December 30, 2013 at 10:48 am

    The Supreme Court seemed to reject the "civil unions must equal marriage argument" in Windsor, so I doubt the 9th Circuit will try and revive it.

  • 7. jpmassar  |  December 30, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Except that no one in California has standing to challenge Judge Walker's decision (except the AG/Governor). So even if Utah's ban was upheld how does Walker's decision get reversed?

  • 8. Pat  |  December 30, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I was thinking the same thing. We didnt really see Utah coming and it apparently wasnt on the radar for most. I was therefore wondering if EoT could give us a run down of other states in which a similar case might occur?

  • 9. Pat  |  December 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Maybe we could start guessing. What do you guys think will be the next states to get marriage equality and at which dates?

  • 10. grod  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Or in Oregon by two cases: http://thelawworks.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/law-w
    and second – https://www.dropbox.com/s/t0ohhnvigngfn0j/13%2012
    Their AG's Oct 16 Opinion is contained in the first link item 2 – States Reply to Complaint:- Exhibit A "Proponents and opponents alike understand that the law targets gays and lesbians in a manner specific to their sexual orientation by denying recognition of only their valid marriages. That is the law's express purpose. The question then becomes whether we could articulate a justification for targeting same-sex couples in that manner. We cannot identify ANY defensible state interest, much less a legitimate or compelling one, in refusing to recognize marriages performed between consenting, unrelated adults under the laws of another state—marriages that would be unquestionably accorded recognition if the spouses were of opposite sexes. Likewise, we cannot identify any legitimate (much less compelling) state interest in requiring that each marriage recognized in Oregon contain one partner of each sex; no benefit to Oregon results from that limitation, and no injury would result from recognizing the marriages.

  • 11. Jacob Combs  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Walker's decision wouldn't be reversed. It's not in effect because of the Ninth Circuit's decision–in essence, SCOTUS's decision in the Prop 8 nullified the circuit court ruling and left Walker's decision as the last word on the matter. So even if Nevada's laws are upheld (which, I agree, seems unlikely), Prop 8 wouldn't come back.

  • 12. grod  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Pat: This is a current list of cases http://www.marriageequality.org/lawsuits. True it does not address which are not on the radar for favorable outcomes. I counted from the long list twelve states other than Utah where out-of-state marriage recognition is part of the cases before the courts.

  • 13. Robin  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Ideally, if all of them rule in our favor and without stays, by the end of 2014, we could have:

    – Ninth Circuit: Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho (Sevcik v. Sandoval)
    – Tenth Circuit: Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma (Kitchen v. Herbert)
    – Michigan (DeBoer v. Snyder: trial on February 25, 2014)
    – Ohio (2014 ballot iniative or new lawsuit)
    – Pennsylvania (Whitewood v. Wolf: trial on June 9, 2014)
    – Virginia (Bostic v. Rainey, backed by AFER or another one backed by ACLU & Lambda Legal)

    International marriage equality:
    – Certainly Scotland in early 2014
    – Certainly Luxembourg in early 2014
    – Hopefully Chile
    – Hopefully Finland
    – Maybe in some Mexican states
    – Maybe Switzerland

    International progress:
    – Certainly Malta (separate but equal civil unions) in early 2014
    – Partnerships in more or less Italy, Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Thailand

    I'm looking forward to the awesome progress! (even though there is still no marriage equality in Germany where it is long overdue now)

  • 14. Bruno71  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    It's not ever that predictable. There are justices for and against equality all over the map. Circuit courts may be slightly more predictable, but it's never a certainty.

  • 15. Al Milo  |  December 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    The fight's not over folk. Please contribute to Equality on Trial to continue to fight the good fight on behalf of marriage equality and to keep us all informed of the various related trials.

  • 16. Dr. Z  |  December 30, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    A couple of questions about the list of cases.

    1. For Oregon, there should be some mention that on October 17 2013 the Deputy AG of Oregon issued an opinion that Amendment 36 was unconstitutional at least as far as recognition of OOS SSM. The DAG directed state agencies to begin recognizing legally valid out of state same-sex marriages.

    2. Whatever happened to those campaign finance discosure lawsuits against NOM? Can someone please update us? How are they still able to stall?

  • 17. Dr. Z  |  December 30, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Taiwan? Vietnam?

  • 18. Dr. Z  |  December 30, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    BTW according to the website of the ACLU of Oregon, their lawsuit has been in preparation for some time and is backed by Basic Rights Oregon. It was developed independently and in parallel with the first suit announced in October although the two will now be consolidated.

  • 19. Straight Dave  |  December 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Ireland certain referendum – maybe late '14/early '15.

  • 20. Stefan  |  December 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Colorado is part of the 10th Circuit.

    I suspect Virginia will grant summary judgment literally anytime now. It will likely go uncontested as Democrats now hold every major statewide office.

  • 21. Craig Nelson  |  December 31, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Many thanks for the links. Given Oregon's prior statements it was going to be difficult for them to contest a case. As there is not much contestation of the matter at hand it seems difficult to have anything other than a positive ruling in this case, where no stay would be sought (and none given) and no appeal to the 9th in the event of such a ruling.

    I think a lot of things pertaining to marriage equality are happening under the radar. No one was talking about Utah before 20 December, so much so that the excellent ruling in New Mexico issued *the day before* has now been put somewhat in the shade.

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