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Southern LGBT activists push for equal marriage rights

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

By Scottie Thomaston south

Last week, Alabama’s first out gay House member suggested that she may challenge the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor did not address state marriage bans directly, but the decisions have already started impacting more than just federal marriage benefits or Article III standing issues: in Michigan a federal judge cited Windsor in issuing a preliminary injunction that will allow benefits for same-sex partners employed by the state to continue to be issued. Given the broad language of Windsor, it’s not impossible to imagine the decision could be used to promote marriage equality in states where it is currently banned.

Another state representative in Alabama, Alvin Holmes, suggested he would support any challenge to the law:

Longtime Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery, who has repeatedly introduced legislation that would add crimes against people based on their sexual orientation to state hate crime laws, said he would support Todd and any legislative pushes to end the state’s prohibition.

“I think a person has a right to marry whoever they want … and not be regulated by state government,” he said. He believes Alabama’s ban is unconstitutional and violates the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution.

Rep. Todd said she isn’t sure how to proceed with a challenge – and implied she would be consulting attorneys soon to discuss ways to move forward. She did note, though, that the only way Alabama is likely to see marriage equality any time soon is through the federal courts.

In Arkansas and Mississippi, activists have also begun work on eliminating state marriage bans. A pro-marriage equality group in Arkansas is working to put the issue on the ballot in 2014:

The group’s proposal would repeal an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that voters approved in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage.

The AG must certify the language of the proposal before the group can begin collecting the 78,133 signatures from registered voters needed to place it on the 2014 ballot.

The group submitted the language on Thursday, noting that their amendment would only repeal the anti-gay marriage amendment, and that more work would need to be done to affirm marriage equality in the state:

Judd Mann, spokesman for Arkansans for Equality, said his group submitted its proposal to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office Thursday morning. Certification of a ballot initiative’s name and title is require before a group can begin gathering the requisite number of signatures to place the measure on the general election ballot.

“Our goal is to see equality for all Arkansans,” Mann said.

Arkansans for Equality’s proposal would not authorize same-sex marriage in Arkansas. If the measure were to get on the ballot and be approved by voters in November 2014, Mann said his group would then work on another ballot proposals to legalize gay marriage in Arkansas.

“That is our ultimate goal,” he said.

In Mississippi, the Campaign for Southern Equality is launching the “We Do” Campaign this month. The effort is geared toward getting legislators on board to pass legislation backing marriage equality. Activists don’t anticipate political movement on the question, but they are fighting nonetheless:

“If you have lived as an LGBT person in the South, you have more than enough strength to change the laws of this country,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.
“Our politcal system is slow to change…Mississippi is not going to change, if I don’t stand up,” said an activist on the Marriage Equality in Mississippi video.

More southern states may join court battles against anti-gay marriage laws and amendments in the near future.

1 Comment

  • 1. USA: Marriage Equality Ef&hellip  |  July 2, 2013 at 7:42 am

    […] Efforts are ramping up in states across the South to pass marriage equality bills or initiatives. Equality on Trial reports: […]

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