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Defending our Marriage Victory Won’t Be Easy

By Matt Baume

Did you have a nice weekend? Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects marriage for everyone — including same-sex couples. It is a decision we have been waiting decades for. And now, all our work is, well, actually, not quite done yet. Let’s take a look at what the court just decided, and what comes next.

There are two huge wins in the Supreme Court decision: one is that the US Constitution guarantees equal protection when it comes to marriage for same-sex couples. That means that states can no longer refuse to let LGBTs marry. The second is that each state has to recognize licenses from every other state. This isn’t just a win for same-sex couples. And it’s not a loss for anyone. When the court upholds the Constitution, expanding equality and justice, everybody wins.

So, now what? Everyone’s still kind of figuring that out. Across the vast majority of the country, couples are getting married and having their existing marriages recognized. But we’re probably going to see a few isolated pockets of resistance. For example, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that clerks may be able to turn same-sex couples away. State officials also said that marriages shouldn’t start yet. But a lot of local clerks have were like, no, we’re starting now, and began issuing licenses right away.

Conflicts like that will probably keep popping up here and there for a while. Missouri’s looking at getting out of the marriage business altogether. North Carolina just passed a bill that lets officials refuse to issue licenses to all couples, gay and straight. Florida clerks have done the same, without waiting for a law making it legal for them to do so. There will be a couple places where people will still have to fight for the rights that the Constitution guarantees.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened in the 1950s when the Supreme Court ordered an end to segregated schools. Some places just closed their schools altogether, rather than integrate them. Kids literally had nowhere to go, because officials preferred to deprive everyone of their rights rather than extend those rights to a minority.

But that tactic didn’t last. With integration, as with marriage, the Supreme Court’s orders were very clear, and civil rights groups fought to have the schools re-opened so the long hard work of integration could move ahead. Over time, the same thing will happen with marriage, but it won’t happen by itself. There will still be parts of the country where couples will have to fight for Constitutionally guaranteed rights. We got the victory — now we need to defend it.

But now’s also a good time to step back, reflect, celebrate, and thank the millions of people who helped make history. This win is thanks in large part to pioneers who stood up for equality in the 70s, leaders like Andrew Sullivan and Evan Wolfson who expanded the conversation in the 80s, organizations like Lambda Legal and GLAD that fought for equality in the 90s, and the growing chorus of voices from the ACLU to NCLR and HRC in the 2000s. But of course it’s not just organizations that made this happen. Whether you marched in a parade, or held a sign, or talked to your family about why marriage matters, this win is also thanks to you.

Now you might be wondering what’s next for this show, Marriage News Watch? There’s still going to be marriage news to report, though it’ll be very different news from what it was before. We’re heading into a new world, and while there’s no telling exactly what’s going to happen, it’s definitely going to be exciting. So say tuned for more to come.

Thanks again so much for watching, sharing, liking, subscribing, and commenting on Marriage News Watch. Keep in touch, and I’ll see you next week.

136 Comments June 29, 2015

The Craziest Parts of NOM’s Marriage Pledge

By Matt Baume

We’re down to the last few days before the Supreme Court rules on marriage. In the mean time, the National Organization for Marriage is asking all of the GOP presidential candidates to sign an anti-equality pledge. Let’s take a look at just how crazy this pledge gets.

There are a couple reasons NOM’s pledge is nuts. Look at what they’re asking all of the candidates to agree to. First, they want candidates to support a constitutional amendment to ban marriage nationwide. This will never happen. George Bush called for an amendment back in 2004 and that went nowhere. Since then, public support for marriage equality has gone from 35% to 55% — if they couldn’t get any momentum behind an amendment then, they’ll never get politicians to spend political capital on it now.

But they don’t stop there. NOM also wants candidates to “work to overturn any Supreme Court decision” in favor of the freedom to marry. That just isn’t how things work. Presidents don’t get to overturn Supreme Court decisions. NOM wants the president to only nominate judges who will uphold marriage bans, but at this point, legal consensus so strongly supports marriage equality that supporting marriage bans is a sign that person isn’t qualified to be a judge.

Third, they want the candidates to reverse all the recent new policies that recognize same-sex spouses. That would mean returning to the days of kicking spouses out of hospitals, denying health care, deporting bi-national couples, removing gay couples from the census, denying funeral leave when a spouse dies, separating family members in emergency shelters — this is how it used to be until just a few years ago. And sure, a president could take us back to that. But they’d look pretty monstrous.

Fourth, NOM wants the candidates to weaken civil rights laws, creating loopholes to let companies and citizens to discriminate if they cite a religious justification. That could actually happen — and it already has in some states — so it’s a huge concern. And fifth, they want the Department of Justice to investigate harassment against people who oppose marriage equality. Sure, gays and lesbians are harassed every day, fired, kicked out of their homes and schools, separated from their families … but NOM gets a little criticism and suddenly they want a federal investigation.

If a candidate signs this crazy pledge, it means one of two things. Either they have no intention of keeping their word, or they know they have no chance of being elected so they might as well make promises they know they can’t keep. NOM issued a similar pledge in 2012, and most of the candidates signed it. We’ll see if the same thing happens this time. After all — NOM may not even exist by the time the election rolls around.

57 Comments June 22, 2015

Rick Santorum vs Marriage

By Matt Baume

Rick Santorum says he’ll fight the Supreme Court on marriage. Sure he will. North Carolina passed a law allowing officials to opt-out of marrying not just gay couples, but all couples. And Texas is shaping up to be the primary battleground once the Supreme Court rules on marriage.

With the Supreme Court due to rule on marriage any day now, Presidential “candidate” Rick Santorum says he would fight back against a pro-equality ruling. He says that states allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is a violation of his religious freedom, which is an argument a lot people made about interracial marriage in the 60s. So do couples need to worry about the possibility that Rick Santorum could stop them from marrying? No. For one thing, the president doesn’t get to veto Supreme Court rulings. And for another, Rick Santorum will never be president.

But statements like those give cover to organizations that oppose marriage equality. Last week a group of religious leaders took out an ad in some newspapers saying that they would defy any order from the Supreme Court to recognize marriage equality. Can they do that? No, not really. At most, they can use this as an excuse to gather email addresses on a petition, which is exactly what they’re doing. This is the work of Rick Scarborough, who has in the past suggested that someone should file a class action lawsuit against homosexuality, so clearly not one of the country’s great legal minds.

Meanwhile, back in reality, a judge in Arkansas ruled this week that the state must recognize marriages performed during a brief window last year when clerks were issuing licenses. And Lambda Legal has filed a new lawsuit in Texas to stop the state from denying spousal benefits to LGBT government employees. Texas is shaping up to be a battleground state when we get a marriage ruling, with some officials doing what they can to resist equality, and others, like the clerk in Dallas, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to marry queer couples.

Also last week, the North Carolina legislature passed a law that allows government officials to opt out of issuing licenses on the basis of their religion. If they opt out, they have to do so for everyone — gay or straight, they’d have to reject all couples. It’s worth pointing out that North Carolina has had marriage equality for over half a year at this point, with no problems. And a new survey shows public support for equality reaching a new high in the state.

That goes along with a new survey from Pew this week, showing support for marriage continuing to do what it’s done for the last decade and a half. Nationally, support is averaging somewhere around 57%, with opposition well under 40. And that’s the big reason why any attempt to disobey the Supreme Court will be unsuccessful. There just aren’t enough people left who oppose the freedom to marry.

43 Comments June 15, 2015

North Carolina Poised to Pass “Turn Away the Gays” Bill

By Matt Baume

A bill to allow North Carolina officials to refuse to serve any couple they don’t like is several steps closer to passing, even after the governor vetoed it. Texas is coming up with new excuses for refusing to issue marriage licenses. And with a federal ruling on marriage due any day now, Judge Roy Moore continues to speak out against the Supreme Court.

North Carolina’s close to passing a bill that would allow state officials to refuse to serve gay couples. Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the bill two weeks ago, but last week the Senate overrode his veto. The House could do the same any day now, which would present a huge problem — not just for gay couples, but for everyone.

This law essentially allows state employees to disregard their oath of office, and choose which citizens they do and don’t want to serve. And it doesn’t just apply to LGBTs — straight couples, divorced couples, interracial or interfaith couples could all be denied access to public services. That’s because anti-gay legislators know that they’re not allowed to single out LGBTs for discrimination. So what they’ve done written a law that just makes everyone’s life unpleasant, which is both clever and a real pain in the neck.

Couples in Texas could be looking at similar problems. State officials there are pointing fingers to explain why they might refuse to issue licenses even if the Supreme Court orders them to. According to local officials, they can’t issue licenses until they get updated forms from the state. State officials say they’re waiting for the Attorney General. And Attorney General Ken Paxton refuses to say if he’d obey a Supreme Court ruling requiring marriage equality. All of this could leave gay couples unable to marry, with nobody in Texas taking responsibility.

Meanwhile, Alabama legislators have failed to pass a bill that would take the state out of the marriage business. The law would have stopped the state from issuing licenses to any couple, gay or straight. But legislators voted it down by an overwhelming margin in committee, which means it’s off the table. For now.

Marriage equality starts this week in Guam, after a few weeks of arguing about whether or not a ruling from a US District Court requires the territory to issue licenses. It turns out that it does. Also last week Judge Roy Moore gave an interview in which he said that marriage equality will “destroy our country.” Moore, who currently faces an ethics complaint by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. For now.

37 Comments June 8, 2015

Anti-Gay Bills Fail in Texas, but Could Resurface in North Carolina

By Matt Baume

An NBC station in Tennessee is refusing to broadcast footage of a gay soldier who wants to get married. The governor of North Carolina vetoed a bill that would let state officials turn gay couples away from marriage counters — but the bill’s not dead yet. And Alabama is actually going through with a threat to stop issuing marriage licenses state-wide — but that might not have the effect they want.

Here’s the ad that a Tennessee TV station refused to air. It features a soldier talking about putting his life on the line as a military physician, and how he would like to marry his boyfriend, a state judge. So why did NBC affiliate WRCB reject the ad? Too controversial, they said. Marriage equality crosses the line.

Meanwhile, another ad just started running this week in Georgia. And even though it features various gay couples and their kids talking about marriage equality, somehow multiple TV stations deemed them appropriate to broadcast. Hopefully Georgia will survive seeing these highly controversial images.

Meanwhile in Texas, multiple anti-gay bills have gone down in flames. Many of the proposed new laws would have caused drastic harm, and several probably weren’t even constitutionally valid. The most the Senate was able to pass was a non-binding declaration in opposition to LGBT couples. That’s still not great, but it could have been a lot worse.

Speaking of worse, a proposed bill in North Carolina to stop LGBTs from marrying came very close to passing last week. The law would have allowed state officials to choose which citizens they want to serve or turn away, in effect using personal preference to ignore their oath of office. Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the bill after it passed the legislature, but there are still enough votes to override the veto if legislators really want to push for it.

Lawmakers in Alabama have been threatening for a while to do away with marriage licenses altogether, and now it looks like they may actually be making good on the threat. The Senate has passed a bill that stops the state from issuing licenses to any couple, gay or straight. The impact of that is actually pretty minimal: anyone still get married, they just don’t need to fill as much paperwork from the state. So, okay.

33 Comments June 1, 2015

Minister Jailed for Stand on Marriage Equality

By Matt Baume

Alabama has sent a minister to jail for 30 days for defying a local judge and marrying a lesbian couple. Irish voters support marriage equality in a landslide, but marriage could still start in America before they start in Ireland. And one more study shows support for equality on the rise.

Anti-equality groups love to claim that religious officials will be punished for speaking out against marriage equality. But for some reason, they don’t seem to want to talk about Anne DePrizio, a Unitarian minister in Alabama who was sentenced to 30 days in jail last month for her stance on marriage.

After a federal court ruled that Alabama’s marriage ban was unconstitutional, Anne conducted a marriage for two women at a probate office. A local judge ordered her to stop, but she defied him and obeyed for the federal ruling. Her punishment for refusing to vacate the office: thirty days in jail, sixth months probation, and a $250 fine.

Just to be clear: this is an actual example of a religious official who has been sent to jail for exercising her religious beliefs. It is the very thing that the opposition has been claiming will happen to them. And yet none of them are coming to Anne’s defense. Weird.

Meanwhile, across the globe: Congratulations to Ireland, the first country in the world to legalize marriage equality by a popular vote. Well, kind of — it hasn’t been legalized yet. Voters overwhelming supported marriage equality in a referendum last week, but now legislators have to draft a constitutional amendment to reflect the vote. That should happen sometime this summer, and then the order will be signed before the end of the year.

So, what does that mean for the U.S.? Well, it means that now Ireland and America are in a race for marriage to start. We’ll get a ruling from the Supreme Court in June, and if it’s favorable, then marriage could start sometime in the next few months. But if it’s unfavorable, it could take a decade or more to undo.

Finally this week, a new survey from Gallup shows marriage support continuing to rise. No big surprises here, though the jump is big: we’re up seven percentage points in the last year. This is about where Ireland was just a few years ago.

230 Comments May 26, 2015

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