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Equality news round-up: Supreme Court tea leaf reading, and more

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Ohio state seal– Justice Ginsburg presided over the wedding of a same-sex couple this past weekend, and apparently commented about “the Constitution.”

– Same-sex couples in Ohio are profiled as we await the Supreme Court’s decision.

– Lambda Legal has filed a Wisconsin case on behalf of a married same-sex couple seeking to list their names on their child’s birth certificate.

– A marriage update from Colombia.

Thanks to Equality Case Files for these filings


  • 1. Jaesun100  |  May 18, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I do believe the notorious RBG just let the cat out the bag early 😉

  • 2. Steve27516  |  May 18, 2015 at 11:56 am

    LOL. Yes, Jaesun – the bag is now empty and the cat is nowhere to be found!

  • 3. VIRick  |  May 18, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I think she's been letting the cat out of the bag for routine, regular exercise ever since 6 October 2014.

  • 4. Jaesun100  |  May 18, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I hope it was a slap down to Sutton as well …..

  • 5. VIRick  |  May 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    She's been slapping him down ever since he refused to clue himself in last November, and instead, issued his idiotic "Baker rules" opinion.

  • 6. 1grod  |  May 19, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Rick – Another person who is having difficulty cluing himself in is AL's AG Luther Strange, who is anticipating an pro-equality ruling from the court:
    I do not recall any observations on AL's Baldwin County new brief to Judge C Granade asserting that Probate Judge Tim Russell and other probate judges have immunity. While gals' slapping guys' metaphor could get overused, is that what's in store for 63 year old Tim Russell?

  • 7. VIRick  |  May 19, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    1grod, I have some difficulty correctly reading Luther Strange. On one level, particularly early on, I had the impression that he dearly and truly wanted the whole marriage equality issue to go away,– and to go away quietly, and as quickly as possible, hoping that people would forget about it once they understood that the sky didn't fall in on poor ol' Alabama as a direct result. I mean, Alabama does recognize marriages between same-sex couples, whether performed in Alabama during the window, or in other states where it is legal,– and Luther Strange (and Governor Bentley) oversaw that implementation, while simultaneously doing the pro forma appeals.

    However, enter Roy Moore and the rest of Roy Moore's wild-haired cohorts on the Alabama Supreme Court. Needless to say, they make Luther Strange (and Governor Bentley, as well) look like a wuss. As a result, I honestly feel that Luther Strange has been pushed to appear as if he's doing something to "defend traditional marriage." I do not believe that he truly believes that the Court will rule against marriage equality. I think he's just saying that as a last-ditch form of "Southern code" for appearances and for political purposes.

    Still, if Luther Strange had any guts at all, he'd not only tell Roy Moore to stuff it, he'd further explain in precise detail just how far Roy Moore would need to stuff it. I mean, if anyone in Alabama deserves to be thoroughly "bitch-slapped," it's Roy Moore. And personally, I'd get quite excited watching Luther Strange "bitch-slap" Roy Moore.

    Also, Luther Strange should clue himself in on what Sam Olens, Georgia's AG, recently stated in his definitive pre-announcement: "Georgia is NOT Alabama. Georgia will comply with the Supreme Court's ruling."

  • 8. scream4ever  |  May 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Amen. Grande's bitch slap in the form of the class action suit is going to be beautiful!

  • 9. jcmeiners  |  May 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm


  • 10. GregInTN  |  May 18, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I think it was even a few weeks before that when she mentioned that there may not be a need for SCOTUS to hear a marriage case unless there were a circuit split (or maybe that was just opening the bag a little bit). I think most folks took that to mean that they would just hold the cases until there was a split. And then the first Monday in October happened.

  • 11. Jaesun100  |  May 18, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    And since she now officially knows the outcome since they voted the Friday after Oral arguments these are some pretty good tea leaves :))))

  • 12. ReadLearn  |  May 18, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    The SCOTUS has already voted on the Marriage Equality issue? Do we know this for sure?

  • 13. Jaesun100  |  May 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    "When oral arguments are concluded, the Justices have to decide the case. They do so at what is known as the Justices' Conference. Two Conferences are held per week when Court is in session, on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The Justices vote on cases heard on Mondays and Tuesdays of a given week at their Wednesday afternoon Conference. The Justices vote on cases heard on Wednesday at their Friday afternoon Conference. When Court is not in session, usually only a Friday Conference is held."

  • 14. VIRick  |  May 18, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Yes. We're simply waiting for the majority decision (and any concurrances and/or dissents) to be written up, mulled over, refined, and then released.

  • 15. wes228  |  May 20, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Shiz just got real y'all. 😐

    I've been waiting for this ruling for almost a decade. Up to just this moment it's still been just an abstraction. But it is COMING! That day is coming!

  • 16. scream4ever  |  May 18, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Indeed. Had the 6th ruled in our favor it would've effectively put off them hearing and deciding the issue by a year until the 8th circuit would've issued a ruling against us.

  • 17. Zack12  |  May 20, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Or the 5th with an en banc ruling.

  • 18. VIRick  |  May 20, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Yes, let's never forget the two Ediths and the other unbridled jack-asses in the 5th Circuit Court.

  • 19. Zack12  |  May 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    There are so many on there, I can see why they waited with the ruling.

  • 20. VIRick  |  May 20, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    I want to see the 5th Circuit Court issue its ruling in favor of marriage equality in early-to-mid-June, just ahead of the Supreme Court. That way, all the bigots and haters like Abbott, Cruz, Jindal, Bryant, Saenz, etc., can absolutely burst their swollen hemorrhoids with excitement over it, as can the two Ediths and the rest of their ilk on the 5th Circuit.

  • 21. scream4ever  |  May 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Yah I think they also may have been waiting for HB 4005 to blow over too,

  • 22. guitaristbl  |  May 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Or she may have lost the vote in SCOTUS and expressing her beliefs strongly as she usually does. Just letting the bad scenario out there..

  • 23. ReadLearn  |  May 18, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Even though your comment has been voted down, I am wondering the same thing. I hope not.

  • 24. guitaristbl  |  May 18, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Oh comments that do not feed the blissful expectations are rarely popular. I expect the best and prepare for the worst in every case. And this case is far from certain that it will go our way in my opinion.

  • 25. VIRick  |  May 18, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Guitar, we won as of 6 October 2014, the date on which the Supreme Court released their decision to refuse to grant certiorari to cases from Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah, and allowed the lower courts' rulings to stand.

  • 26. scream4ever  |  May 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    And it was further confirmed when they refused to stay favorable rulings which were still ongoing and also when they granted cert to the cases from the one circuit which ruled against us.

  • 27. VIRick  |  May 18, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Precisely. More recently (between mid-October 2014 and February 2015), by refusing to grant stays to cases from both the 9th and 11th Circuits, these decisions, in combination with the earlier refusal to grant certiorari, caused the number of states with marriage equality to jump from 19 to 37. The intention of the Court has been made rather clear. Even Scalia and Thomas (in effect) have told us so.

    And yes. When the 6th Circuit issued its foolish and vain attempt at overturning marriage equality in November 2014, the number of states with equality was already at 35 (or 34 1/2, with Kansas, with its stalled, half-assed approach, still obfuscating).

  • 28. josejoram  |  May 20, 2015 at 10:01 am

    This is the reason why I don't understand current skepticism on the issue, even when prior to the SCOTUS hearings all over here were pretty sure we'd win.

  • 29. Zack12  |  May 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Indeed, they didn't stop rulings in Florida and Alabama even when they knew they were going to hear the cases.

  • 30. JayJonson  |  May 19, 2015 at 6:42 am

    I am dubious that she would have made the comment so emphatically at such a happy occasion had she lost. The very fact that she stressed the word CONSTITUTION so joyfully leads me to think that she was playing to the crowd gathered for the wedding and eager for good news.

  • 31. josejoram  |  May 21, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Yes! Indeed.

  • 32. mjnichol  |  May 18, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    "With a sly look and special emphasis on the word “Constitution,” "

    Pretty sure that a "sly" look means we won 😉

  • 33. David_Midvale_UT  |  May 19, 2015 at 8:12 am

    You forgot the capital N. . . She deserves to be styled "the Notorious RBG." 🙂

  • 34. josejoram  |  May 20, 2015 at 10:11 am

    It wouldn't be such of a crudelty to perform herself a ceremony, knowing it could be reverted or voided?

  • 35. GregInTN  |  May 20, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I believe the ceremony was in the District of Columbia. Marriage equality came to DC through the legislative process. It was not through the Federal Courts. Thus, the outcome of the current Supreme Court case will have no impact on marriage equality in DC regardless of the result.

    Even if the court upholds the bans, it would not affect places that eliminated their bans through their own processes rather than waiting to be told to do so by the federal courts.

  • 36. bythesea66  |  May 20, 2015 at 10:47 am

    True, but this wasn't something subtle or mysterious at all and remember the vote has already happened. Those trying to worry presently meet the definition of silly. The worry now should be about the scope and logic of the ruling rather than which way it will go.

  • 37. VIRick  |  May 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    "The worry now should be about the scope and logic of the ruling …."


  • 38. josejoram  |  May 21, 2015 at 4:34 am

    Well.That's a very good point. Anyway, I think it'd be very, very malicious to joking on the possibilities of aproval should she knows the answer is no.

  • 39. mjnichol  |  May 18, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Curious what would happen if a justice passed away in office after they had voted on a decision, but before the opinion was published? Given some of their ages, this makes me a little nervous 🙂

  • 40. SteveThomas1  |  May 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Opinions and votes only count on the day the opinion is announced and published. If a Justice votes in conference for, say, reversing the lower court, but dies before the opinion is announced his or her vote no longer counts. In some cases, where there was a 5-4 vote split, for example, and the deceased Justice voted with the majority, the result would be a 4-4 split, which would automatically uphold the lower court. When this has happened, the Court sometimes sets the case for rehearing in the next term, hoping that they'll have a full complement of 9 by that time.

    (Incidentally, how a Justice votes in the first conference isn't binding even on that Justice. If, in the course of the drafting of opinions, the Justice decides his or her vote was wrong, that Justice can join the opinion he or she originally voted against.)

  • 41. Mike_Baltimore  |  May 18, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    A good and recent example would be the switch that Chief Justice Roberts made in upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). He went from against the law in the initial conference, to for it when the decision was announced in open court.

  • 42. JayJonson  |  May 19, 2015 at 6:52 am

    An even better example (or at least more relevant to gay rights) is Justice Lewis Powell, who originally voted to strike down sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick. After the initial conference, he changed his vote to uphold them, agreeing with White et al. that there is no privacy right to engage in homosexual conduct. In his concurrence with the majority opinion, however, he said the fact that Hardwick had not been prosecuted was a factor in his decision for "a prison sentence for such conduct–certainly a sentence of long duration–would create a serious Eighth Amendment issue."

    He later said that he probably erred in his vote but thought that the Hardwick case was "frivolous," one brought "just to see what the court would do."

  • 43. Eric  |  May 19, 2015 at 7:39 am

    How can it be frivolous to appeal a criminal case? Is that not a major point of the Constitution? Powell was trying to backpedal on his bigotry.

  • 44. ebohlman  |  May 20, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Bowers wasn't an appeal of a criminal case. The charges against Hardwick were dropped and he was never tried, let alone convicted. The case was a civil suit arguing that the laws that formed the basis for his arrest were unconstitutional. Pretty much the only reason Hardwick even had Article III standing was that an arrest record can lead to adverse action by private parties (employers, landlords, etc.).

    IMHO it was a poor case that should never have been brought in the first place; waiting for a better case (such as an appeal of an actual conviction) would likely have resulted in a favorable ruling much sooner than 2003, not to mention not setting a precedent that threw a monkey wrench into cases like High-Tech Gays.

  • 45. JayJonson  |  May 21, 2015 at 6:51 am

    It was not a poor case; the Supreme Court at the time had no interest in justice for gay people, but the case itself was as near perfect as we were likely to get. The arrest and original charge of sodomy against Hardwick for having sex in the privacy of his own home provided an ideal scenario to challenge sodomy laws.

    Georgia's dropping the charge against Hardwick was simply a tactical move designed to prevent a challenge. The damage sodomy laws did had little to do with actual convictions, but with the laws' stigmatizing effects, which permeated almost every aspect of gay life while they existed.

    The fact that the challenge in Bowers did not succeed had everything to do with the bigotry of White, Burger et al. not with the facts of the case. The loss at SCOTUS simply reaffirmed the existing presumption that sodomy laws were constitutional.

    Luckily, state supreme courts moved where SCOTUS refused to go, though usually in sodomy cases involving heterosexuals. The Georgia statute upheld by SCOTUS in 1986 was tossed out by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1998 when it was applied in a heterosexual case.

    If one waits for the perfect case, then one does nothing. People criticized Lambda for bringing Lawrence to SCOTUS, arguing that the Court would not reverse itself a mere 12 years–Lawrence and Garner were arrested in 1998–after it ruled in Bowers.

    In fact, it was highly doubtful that the case would ever reach SCOTUS. Lawrence and Garner were almost certainly not guilty of what they were charged with. Had they disputed the alleged facts of the case and won, the case would have ended. Had the prosecutor dropped or reduced the charges as was customary, the case would have ended. Had the judge assessed a fine lesser than $200, the case would have ended. As it was, the Texas appellate courts mostly sat on the case for years.

    My point is that instead of denigrating the people who brought Bowers, we should be celebrating them.

    Moreover, it is highly unlikely that we would have had Lawrence without Bowers. Although we did not win Bowers, the case resulted in superb dissents by Blackmun and Stevens; a great deal of publicity; outraged protests; and a general consensus that SCOTUS had made the wrong decision–even Powell admitted he cast the wrong vote. The loss also propelled a change in direction: we concentrated on state courts and legislatures to toss out sodomy laws so that in 2003 there were only 13 states with sodomy laws, whereas in 1986 there were twice that number.

    Without the reaction to Bowers, there would not have been Lawrence and the extraordinary majority opinion by Justice Kennedy, which declared of Bowers: "Its continuance as a precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons" and concluded: "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."

    And without Lawrence we would not have had Windsor. And without Windsor we would not have Obergefell.

  • 46. VIRick  |  May 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks, Jay. That's an excellently brilliant and accurate summation, focused in, as it is, on the correct historical sequence of events, explaining how one thing leads to another, which given precedent, is also exactly the way the Court itself operates.

  • 47. StraightDave  |  May 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    My personal favorite of the vote-switching genre is Lee v. Weisman. Kennedy drafted the opinion of a 5-4 majority. Then while proof-reading it to see if it made sense, he suddenly decides "you know, actually I think I'm full of shit", or words to that effect. He rips it up, walks down the hall to Harry Blackmun and tells him he's switching sides. That flips the whole court to 5-4 in the opposite direction. Kennedy once again gets tapped to write the opinion for the new majority. This all came from Blackmun's memoirs after he retired.

  • 48. Zack12  |  May 20, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I don't think Kennedy is going to switch a yes vote to a no vote here.
    My biggest fear is that he will sign onto other crappy rulings like he did with the gutting of the VRA and then use the DOMA option to cover those stories up.

  • 49. gay_avenger  |  May 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    If the majority of Justices has signed onto all of the contents of the Court's opinion before it is publicly delivered and one of them dies after agreeing to the opinion does that still not count?

    SteveThomas1 :
    "If a Justice votes in conference for, say, reversing the lower court, but dies before the opinion is announced his or her vote no longer counts. In some cases, where there was a 5-4 vote split, for example, and the deceased Justice voted with the majority, the result would be a 4-4 split, which would automatically uphold the lower court."

  • 50. SteveThomas1  |  May 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    No, it wouldn't count, because until the moment the opinion is released each Justice still has the option of changing his or her mind.

    For example, Mike_Baltimore above noted that Justice Roberts changed his mind on the Obamacare case, flipping the result. I think he is almost certainly correct about this, but no Justice and no employee of the Court has ever confirmed that. The notion that there was a switch, indeed a last minute switch, comes from internal evidence from the opinions, which show every appearance of having been modified at some haste to adapt to the suddenly changed vote. (For example, Justice Ginsberg's opinion was characterized as simply a dissent, but it should have been characterized as concurring in part and dissenting in part. I suspect that in their haste to get the basic changes made, the folks working on the opinions didn't notice all the conforming changes that should have been made.)

  • 51. weaverbear  |  May 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I'm having as much trouble and angst as the rest of y'all here, but come on folks. It's just another 6 weeks from yesterday before Pride in SF and NYC and the common wisdom is that a ruling will be done by then, so shall we all just take a deep breath, hunker down & not panic?

    Personally, I'm more intent on watching what shenanigans are going to go on in the Texas legislature, the Alabama state courts vs the Federal district court there and Kansas' state government, between now and then. Further, I have my eyes set eastward to Ireland for the vote that's about to happen there this coming Friday. I have my fingers very tightly crossed for our community there. That we have a decent shot at winning that national vote is huge.

    This ad has been up on Youtube and I think is worth seeing:

  • 52. Mike_Baltimore  |  May 18, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    A note of caution, Weaverbear. The latest polls in Ireland, though still in our favor, show a minor to major slipping of support for ME in the country.

    'Polls Show Ireland Still Likely to Vote Yes on Marriage', but it's a lot closer than it was just a couple of months ago. We are lucky that the vote will take place in less than a week.

  • 53. bythesea66  |  May 18, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    The polling on gay adoption (as opposed to marriage equality) is more like 60-40 support. I suspect that reflects "strong support" better and the actual results imo will likely be closer to that, but still an actual loss is unlikely.

  • 54. RnL2008  |  May 20, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    That's what happened here with regards to Prop 8……the polling showed it would fail and on election night, it passed….why? Because the No on * campaign DIDN'T do their jobs in my opinion……instead of showing the people EXACTLY who Prop 8 was going to hurt, they allowed the Yes on 8 campaign BS to be all that folks saw!!!

    Hopefully that DOESN'T happen in Ireland.

  • 55. scream4ever  |  May 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Yes, but all polls were within the margin of error. That's not the case in Ireland. I predict we'll win with roughly 60% support.

  • 56. RnL2008  |  May 20, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    That is your choice, but all I'm saying is here in this Country, we have thought the same thing and lost…..hopefully that DOESN'T happen.

  • 57. RemC_Chicago  |  May 19, 2015 at 7:29 am

    The New Civil Rights Movement has reported on some of the hateful tweets in response to the President's first tweet yesterday. I know I'm more naive than most, but I'm still shocked that there are people who can express themselves this way. I read the tweets of one of them and concluded he's a kid who has some serious growing up to do:

  • 58. David_Midvale_UT  |  May 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Thinly veiled racism wrapped in a "Don't Tread On Me" flag is still strong in some people. If His Eminence Ronnie Raygun had tweeted the same thing (assuming that social media was readily available during His presidency), the neo-cons would be fawning over every phoneme. (But would Nancy and her "advisor" approve?)

  • 59. Jen_in_MI  |  May 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Ah yes, the "psychic" Jeane Dixon, White House Advisor. LOL

  • 60. RemC_Chicago  |  May 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Not so thinly veiled, David, given the frequent use of the "n" word.

  • 61. JayJonson  |  May 19, 2015 at 8:41 am

    More on Ireland referendum here. Former President Mary McAleese has a gay son and is strongly in favor of same-sex marriage. She refutes the NO campaign's fear-mongering about a Yes vote will harm children, saying that a NO will harm gay children, including those yet to be born:

  • 62. RnL2008  |  May 31, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Here is an article that Santorum declares he will fight the ruling from SCOTUS. It is his opinion that SCOTUS does have a word with regards to this issue, but it is NOT the final word on the right to marry for Gays and Lesbians:

    It's always nice to see idiots shooting themselves in the foot to start off their bid to be President!!

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