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More Marriage Equality Wins in Western States


By Matt Baume

This week I’m in Washington DC, where in one year we’re all but guaranteed to have a ruling on the freedom to marry. We also have major milestones to report this week in Utah and Indiana.

Marriage equality got a huge victory last week, with an appeals court upholding a ruling that Utah’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. It was last December that a lower court first ruled against Utah’s ban, and hundreds of couples were able to wed during a brief window.

Now the case goes to the U. S. Supreme Court, which may take the case, or decline to hear it, this fall. If they hear the case, we’ll likely have a ruling in June of 2015. If they don’t, marriage could start back up again in Utah before the end of this year.

But in the mean time, some clerks in Colorado have started issuing marriage licenses now. Colorado is in the same circuit as Utah, and the clerks have explained that last week’s ruling requires them to set aside Colorado’s marriage ban.

There’s also been a major ruling in Indiana. Once again, a federal court has found a marriage equality ban to violate the U. S. Constitution. This time, the court did not delay the issuing of marriage licenses, and couples were able to begin marrying in Indiana for a few days.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit halted the marriages while the state appeals the lower court’s ruling. As in Utah, this case is on track to the U. S. Supreme Court, although it may not reach the court in time for its next upcoming session.

The next states to watch are Oklahoma and Virginia. Both cases could get a ruling any day now. They would then join Utah in petitioning the Supreme Court. We also have big news in Louisiana: Judge Martin Feldman has expended the scope of a narrow marriage case to cover marriage equality in general. We can expect a major ruling in Louisiana in the next few months.

Also last week, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay married four couples in his office. Missouri’s marriage ban is still on the books, so it’s unclear whether these marriage licenses are valid. Missouri has had a pending marriage case for months, and just this past week gained a second.

Also last week, the Justice Department issued a report calling for the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine has become the fourth Republican Senator to endorse marriage equality.


  • 1. eizverson22  |  July 1, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I hope that marriage equality can emulate some Western countries.<img src=>

  • 2. Ragavendran  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I do like the way Matt thinks, and I wish it were true, but I disagree that we are "all but guaranteed" to have a marriage ruling in a year from the Supreme Court. Also, with respect to Colorado, it's just one clerk (Boulder County) who is issuing licenses.

  • 3. Dann3377  |  July 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    My understanding of what Matt is saying is that there will be a decision with the Utah case by next June. That is a guarantee isn't it? If the SCOTUS declines to hear the case, ME will be law in the 10th circuit. If they take the case we will have a decision by next June.

  • 4. Ragavendran  |  July 1, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Hmm… I disagree – he broadly said we're all but guaranteed to get a ruling "on the freedom to marry" in Washington, DC. He doesn't discuss the Utah case specifically until after his intro segment. Anyway, if that's what he really meant, then we are more than "all but guaranteed" to learn the fate of Utah's marriage ban by next year ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 5. brandall  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:23 am

    And in Indiana…the 7th Circuit Appeals court has expedited and pulled in the schedule. Final documents are due August 5th instead of the original date of September 19th.

    The article cites one of the plaintiffs is is a couple with an out of state marriage and a spouse has ovarian cancer which is just awful.

    Gracefully putting the above situation aside, this might put the 7th in the AC's ruling in the line up for SCOTUS.

  • 6. Fledge01  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I also think SCOTUS will not take any cases until some appeals court rules the state bans are constitutional, and thus a split in the circuits. As far as the St, Louis marriages being valid or not, it all depends on whether ultimately the state ban is constitutional or not. If its determined at some future date that the ban is not constitutional, then that would mean that there is no valid ban today. An unconstitutional ban is invalid from the date the ban was first assumed to have been created. So there never would have been a restriction on the Mayor in the first place.

  • 7. scream4ever  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    We already have that with Bruenning from 2006.

  • 8. Zack12  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

    We could see Scotus ignore that by simple stating that was Pre-Windsor.
    Having said that, if I had to pick a circuit that would rule against us after the 5th, the 8th will be the first in line for that.

  • 9. Bruno71  |  July 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Maybe it's more about the status of these cases. Since Bruning was never appealed to SCOTUS, it's not a case that can come before them. So they may wait until a "live" case where a marriage ban is ruled constitutional does.

  • 10. F_Young  |  July 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    scream4ever: "We already have that with Bruenning from 2006. "

    No doubt you mean: Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, (8th Cir. 2006)

  • 11. DocZenobia  |  July 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

    If SCOTUS waits for a circuit split, they are going to have to start lifting the stays as each circuit rules – allowing ME to spread circuit by circuit. But that means that if SCOTUS later takes a ME case and (hypothetically) rules that DOMA laws ARE constitutional, they are going to have a huge mess on their hands trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

    It would also lead to the odd and messy situation that a couple's marriage would be considered constitutional in one circuit but not in another.

    Because of the stays, I think SCOTUS won't wait for a circuit split. They will grant cert to a case in the 2014-2015 term, and keep the stays in place until then.

  • 12. JoshLmno  |  July 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    This is what I've been trying to figure out. How long are the stays in effect? If they are all without end date and the USSC doesn't take up a case in the coming term, then it would be at least two more years of discrimination. If stays are lifted and they get appealed to the USSC and they reinstate the stays, same situation. If the USSC doesn't want to take up one of these cases they should not grant any further stays in these cases.

    Maybe Justice Ginsburg is sticking around to rule in favor of equality and be enshrined in our history. What an amazing opportunity she has!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 13. ebohlman  |  July 1, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    The scenario you're describing could only happen if the SCOTUS were to perpetually relist the first cases appealed to it without deciding whether to grant cert. If they deny cert on any case, that associated case's stay expires since its appeals process has terminated.

  • 14. JoshLmno  |  July 4, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Thanks ebohlman, that makes sense. Let's hope they hurry up and get these cases decided.

  • 15. Ragavendran  |  July 1, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    This makes sense to me. As long as circuits keep ruling in favor of ME, most of the liberal justices will likely vote against cert, preferring to let positive ME rulings percolate circuit by circuit, whereas most of the conservative justices will likely vote to grant cert, preferring to "nip it in the bud". Since it only takes four to grant cert, if all four conservatives unite to grant cert this Fall, we'll have a ME ruling next year! (Note that I'm leaving Kennedy out of this discussion – I can't predict how he might vote.)

    On the other hand, as soon as a circuit rules against ME, there will be a post-Windsor circuit split and it is all but certain that cert will be granted.

  • 16. Bruno71  |  July 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    No doubt if they want to rule against marriage equality, they'll take the next case that comes to them. I'd postulate though that if they wanted to do that, they would've done backflips to make sure they took Hollingsworth. I don't buy that Scalia is such a stickler for standing that he'd let marriage equality happen in California. It was the best case scenario for the bigot side of the court.

  • 17. _Schteve_  |  July 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

    I attended a small talk by Roberta Kaplan a few weeks ago where she talked about her arguments in Windsor before the court. Her opinion on Hollingsworth was that the four conservatives granted cert seeing it as their best chance to cement a ruling against same-sex marriage, and that the liberals responded by adding the standing issue to the case as a way out. She also thought that the conservatives responded in kind by adding standing issues to Windsor.

    I don't agree with this explanation myself, but her take on it is certainly more valuable than most!

  • 18. brandall  |  July 1, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Gays have right to marry in Kentucky, judge rules

    Added in-state marriages to his earlier ruling covering out-of-state marriages.

    Best quote of the day; from Judge Heyborn: "These arguments are not those of serious people,"

  • 19. adorable anxiety disorder&hellip  |  July 4, 2014 at 5:34 am

    adorable anxiety disorder

    Equality On TrialEquality On Trial ยป

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