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Filed under: Civil Unions

Marriage equality updates from Indiana and Arizona

A majority of Indianans opposes an anti-marriage equality amendment, and a fourth Arizona city approves civil unions.

Continue 1 Comment September 25, 2013

Michigan marriage equality lawsuit to be argued October 1; new filings in Illinois marriage challenges

By Scottie Thomaston

A scheduling conference in the lawsuit challenging Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, DeBoer v. Snyder, took place yesterday, July 10 in federal district court. The federal judge declined to dismiss the case last week, but did not issue a final ruling or a schedule for further motions or arguments, putting the decision off until yesterday’s conference.

No final decision on the merits of the constitutional challenge to the ban was released yesterday, and the judge has set oral arguments for October 1. Challenges against same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Hawaii are likely to see oral arguments in October as well, though probably at the end of the month, since an extension of time was sought to file briefs. Those cases are already in the appeals court, though, at the Ninth Circuit.

In Illinois, Lambda Legal has filed a motion for summary judgment in Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr. This is a request for a decision on the merits, (in the plaintiffs’ favor, in this case.) Their brief in support of summary judgment is much like the one they filed in the New Jersey case: both are state cases, both states have civil unions. In one section, they write:

Plaintiffs who obtained civil unions by license from illinois county clerks currently are denied a number of federal benefits and protections that would be available to them and their families if they could marry now that DOMA has been struck down.

The filing goes on to list specific ways civil unions deny same-sex couples equal protection under the law afforded to opposite-sex couples. There is no timeline for the court to act in the case.

2 Comments July 11, 2013

Post-DOMA, federal government issues memos announcing that benefits for same-sex couples will not be extended to civil unions, domestic partnerships

By Scottie Thomaston

The Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management has issued memos making it clear that federal benefits for married same-sex and opposite-sex couples will still only apply to those couples, and benefits will not be given to people in civil unions or domestic partnerships:

The Office of Personnel Management made that announcement in a series of memos to federal benefits administrators and insurance carriers, saying couples who are not legally married “will remain ineligible for most federal benefits programs.” However, any existing benefits provided to domestic partners will remain intact, OPM said.
That means same sex couples living anywhere in the U.S. will qualify for federal-employee benefits as long as they hold marriage licenses from any of the 13 states that recognize same-sex marriage, as well as from the District of Columbia, which has also legalized such unions.

Questions remain about how the administration will treat same-sex couples and domestic partners outside the federal workforce, including with Social Security, tax and veterans’ benefits. The agencies that handle those programs have not issued guidance.

The memos reiterate what was already the law post-DOMA; no changes have been made. They simply offered guidance for particular groups working to implement the changes they are now allowed to enforce without Section 3 of DOMA.

There is one interesting aspect of the decision to explicitly say that the benefits won’t be offered to people in domestic partnerships or civil unions, however. As EqualityOnTrial has written recently, Lambda Legal’s strategy in the New Jersey marriage equality lawsuit has been to point out that with Section 3 of DOMA gone, same-sex couples in New Jersey, a civil union state, aren’t treated equally and are now denied at least 1,138 federal benefits because the state declines to allow these couples to marry:

Before the Windsor decision, same-sex couples in states with marriage equality (for instance, New York) and in civil unions in states like New Jersey were treated the same by the federal government: namely, their marriages were ignored. Although the CURC held that New Jersey’s civil unions did not grant full equality even under state law the way that equal marriage rights would, there was a case to be made–pre-DOMA–that civil unions in New Jersey weren’t all that different from marriage equality in New York. As Lambda Legal writes, that is no longer true:
[A]fter Windsor, there simply can be no question but that same-sex couples in New Jersey are denied the equal benefits expressly guaranteed by Lewis, thus inflicting precisely the indignity which the New Jersey Supreme Court, in that opinion, abhorred.

Lambda Legal is referring here, of course, to the federal benefits which the U.S. government is now in the process of extending to married same-sex couples in the wake of the DOMA decision. In other words, civil unions in New Jersey now prohibit same-sex couples from accessing federal benefits–since the federal government does not recognize couples in civil unions as eligible for such benefits–which these couples could obtain with New Jersey marriage licenses.

The new memos from the federal government echo the facts Lambda Legal has presented, and they seem to offer evidence of the stark legal differences between civil unions and domestic partnerships on the one hand, and marriage on the other. It adds more evidence, from the federal government itself, that the states which continue to offer only civil unions or domestic partnerships but not marriage are not treating same-sex couples similarly to opposite-sex couples.

3 Comments July 9, 2013

Equality news round-up: Justice Kagan talks marriage equality, and more

By Scottie Thomaston

Justice Kagan, with President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts. Attribution:
Justice Kagan, with President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts. Attribution:

– Maggie Gallagher, formerly of the National Organization for Marriage, suggested recently that Justice Kennedy issued a “fatwa” against people who oppose marriage equality.

– Former President George W. Bush made some vague comments recently about marriage equality, but refused to address the issue directly, saying he is out of politics.

– What’s next after DOMA’s downfall?

– A Colorado couple gets their green card post-DOMA.

– The LA Times looks at the anti-Prop 8 side’s strategy they had in place for a Supreme Court decision based on standing.

– In an interview with Jeffrey Rosen, Justice Elena Kagan briefly discussed the marriage equality cases the Court decided in June. She did decline to discuss the issue of state marriage bans, pointing out that the Prop 8 case was only decided on standing, so the Court has not yet spoken on the merits issue.

4 Comments July 8, 2013

Equality news round-up: Support for marriage equality climbs among older Americans, and more

By Scottie Thomaston

Bisbee, Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona

– On DOMA and immigration.

– “In Tennessee, gay marriage has young doubting Republicans.”

– Former Congressman Charles Bass calls on Republicans to support full marriage equality.

– A new Gallup poll shows that people over the age of 55 now support marriage equality.

– The town of Bisbee, AZ has approved its civil unions measure that EqualityOnTrial has covered several times. The measure was amended after objections and threats of a lawsuit, and the new version passed.

A new Pew poll surveys acceptance of homosexuality in other countries.

June 5, 2013

Equality news round-up: Immigration reform, LGBT rights in Tennessee, and more

By Scottie Thomaston

Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

– The biggest news of the week is yesterday’s action in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where most Democrats joined all Republicans to oppose inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a compromise pro-LGBT bill that would have allowed binational married couples of the same sex to remain in the United States together, in the “comprehensive” immigration bill. Jacob covered it today, and linked to lots of commentary. Earlier this month, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway explained UAFA and the potential effects of an eventual repeal or court decision striking down DOMA. He pointed out that simply getting rid of DOMA would not fix the situation.

– Last we Towleroad profiled a same-sex binational couple. Lavi Soloway did as well.

– LGBT activists react angrily to the lack of LGBT inclusion in immigration.

– What’s next in the marriage fight?

– A poll in Tennessee shows that 62 per cent of people in the state think gays and lesbians and their partners should get health and other work-related benefits, and also shows that 49 per cent support some sort of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

– Last week, President Obama gave a commencement address at Morehouse College that included pro-LGBT remarks. The video is here.

– Freedom to Work has filed a discrimination complaint against Exxon Mobil in Illinois.

3 Comments May 22, 2013

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