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Another US Supreme Court Decision on Marriage

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Matt Baume

We have the latest from Utah, where the state has committed to spending millions of dollars to undo marriage equality. An apology from a Florida governor who has now changed his mind on banning the freedom to marry. Plus, new promises of yet another federal lawsuit in a conservative state.

There are several new developments in the Utah case this week. After a federal judge legalized marriage equality in Utah last month, the state has now hired Idaho attorney Monte Stewart to represent them on appeal. Republican lawmakers have pledged to spend up to two million dollars of taxpayer funds to try to overturn the freedom to marry, even though the case has already passed what should be its most expensive hurdles. For comparison, the entire cost of defending DOMA from start to finish was two point three million dollars.

Also last week, the state requested an emergency stay from the US Supreme Court. If granted, the stay would halt marriage equality during the appeals process. We could have a decision from the court on the stay any day now.

In the mean time, the appeal of the ruling is moving ahead with a very rapid schedule. The opening brief is due on January 27th, a response brief is due February 18, then a reply on February 25th, and then oral arguments will follow that. We could easily have a ruling from the 10th circuit by this summer. That could potentially mean the case could go to the US Supreme Court for the session starting at the end of this year.

Turning to the other states, the Michigan Department of State has confirmed that it will not allow gay couples who marry out of state to change their names on their Michigan driver’s licenses. Former Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist has apologized for his past support for a ban on marriage and civil unions.

Alaska attorney Caitlin Shortell has revealed plans to file a federal lawsuit in that state later this month. And officials in Maine have announced that in the first year of marriage equality, over 1,500 gay and lesbian couples got married in the state. That’s sixteen percent of all Maine marriages.

8 Comments

  • 1. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    This is a reminder to us that Utah isn't the only place things are happening.

  • 2. FYoung  |  January 7, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Here is news from Arizona and West Virginia:

    West Virginia Marriage Challenge Likely To Move Forward http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2014/01/07/61639

    Suit Filed To Overturn Arizona Marriage Ban http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2014/01/07/61635

  • 3. StraightDave  |  January 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Boy, those Mich idiots sure have some balls. A change of name is an official legal act that terminates your former identity. They're getting a bit out of hand with their Denial Of Reality Act.
    Oh well, it will just hasten their demise by showing how irrational they are. The state can't possibly be helped by creating identity confusion.
    I spent a year in college there and don't remember such idiocy being the norm.

  • 4. Dr. Z  |  January 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    That happened to us after we got married in 2004. Some agencies let us change our names (Oregon DMV, Social Security) but others did not (Passports.)

  • 5. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    The issuance of passports is a Federal function, and until the end of June 2013, the Federal government was prohibited by DOMA Section 3 from acknowledging Marriage Equality, or anything resembling it. Otherwise, my partner would have been on my health plan provided through the FEHB.

    The Oregon DMV is a state function, not covered by DOMA Section 3.

    Social Security is Federal, but usually doesn't allow name changes unless an official state document (marriage license, for example) or court order (adoption, etc.) is the cause for name change.

  • 6. Dr. Z  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Yes, I still have the letter from the State Department explaining that they could not grant a name change because we were a gay married couple.

    Social Security is an interesting case for many reasons. It is governed by a number of arcane laws that sets it apart from the IRS or any other agency. It turns out that the SSA will accept a name change if you have a certified written statement from your doctor attesting that they know you as the person you present yourself to be. That's how we were able to change our names to SSA – and we still have that document, too.

    Ultimately however we had to get a legal name change before we could make everything official. We took my husband's mother's maiden name to honor all the work she did to support LGBT equality over the years, from serving as the President of Oregon PFLAG to debating Scott Lively. That's where the "Z" in "Dr. Z" comes from.

  • 7. Lymis  |  January 7, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I could see them declaring that an out-of-state marriage license is not sufficient legal documentation for a name change on a driver's license (assuming they HAVE requirements for legal documentation for such changes).

    I can't see how they can deny the name change itself, simply because a couple is gay.

  • 8. Steve  |  January 7, 2014 at 9:00 am

    This is a perfect example of how utterly insane the entire American legal and political system is. It's just a name change. It doesn't confer any actual financial or legal benefit. In a properly designed society, and as far a driver's license is concerned, they shouldn't be able to reject a document that was issued in another part of the same country.

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