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First Circuit sends Puerto Rico marriage case back to district court in light of Obergefell

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1stThe First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the district court opinion upholding Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban should be wiped out, because the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision is binding. The appeals court sent the case back to district court so it can reassess its decision in light of the new Supreme Court precedent.

The formal mandate has also been issued.

Because the district court has to rule consistently with the Supreme Court, it’s likely to issue a quick decision that the ban is invalid.

Thanks to Equality Case Files for these filings


  • 1. Zack12  |  July 8, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Nice to see the housecleaning being done.

  • 2. F_Young  |  July 8, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Want to be in the movies, anyone?

    Fox Planning Movie About Supreme Court Gay-Marriage Ruling

  • 3. NorthernAspect  |  July 9, 2015 at 2:20 am

    I'd love to see what actors they cast for the Supreme Court justices. Would also be awesome to see re-enactments of the oral arguments.

  • 4. Tony MinasTirith  |  July 9, 2015 at 2:56 am


    Clarence Thomas… Danny Glover
    Notorious RBG… Helen Miren
    Elena Kagan… Melissa McCarthy
    Scaly Scalia…Jeff Garlin (agified)
    SotoMayor…Belita Moreno
    John Roberts… Matt Damon
    Anthony Kennedy… Jason Statham (agified)
    Stephen Breyer….George Segal
    Sammy Alito…Clint Howard

    Mr. Obergefell….Ben Affleck (agified)
    Mr. Obergefell's Husband… Brad Pitt (agified)
    Mary Bonauto …Drew Barrymore
    Attorney for the States John J. Bursch … Justin Long
    Evan Wofson…. Sean Astin (agified)
    Maggie Gallagher… Jabba the Hutt (CGI)

    Barrack Obama… Kevin Hart
    The Solicitor General… Tom Skerritt
    Richard Hodges.. Rick Hurst
    Michelle Obama… Ru Paul

    and…there you go! I should'a been a casting director.

  • 5. AndresM11  |  July 9, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Totally loved this cast!! You should definitely consider a career in Hollywood Tony 😛

    Loved your choice of the actor for the Maggie Gallagher part :O

  • 6. Tony MinasTirith  |  July 9, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I know, right? 🙂

  • 7. Mike_Baltimore  |  July 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Why would anyone even want to potentially enrich Rupert Murdoch? 20th Century Fox studios is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Fox Entertainment Group, whose majority owner is Murdoch.

  • 8. guitaristbl  |  July 8, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    That took them some time…
    Has the 11th dismissed the Florida case and what was appealed, if anything, from the Alabama cases ?
    Also the district court in Georgia has not struck down the ban yet..

  • 9. DrBriCA  |  July 8, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    No word from the 11th on any of its cases. The Georgia judge hasn't ruled, although he clearly wasn't in high favor of ruling for same-sex marriage in the first place and wanted it off his hands. The WV judge also took a few weeks to enter judgment after the cert denial for the 4th circuit, but like Georgia, it was already following the new law of the land.

    I believe the 8th has also been quiet, despite several plaintiffs asking for it to affirm their rulings (or the defendants asking to vacate the ruling as moot as a way to weasel out of paying attorney fees).

  • 10. VIRick  |  July 9, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Yes, the 8th Circuit Court (re the appeals from both Arkansas and South Dakota), and the 11th Circuit Court (re the multiple appeals from both Alabama and Florida) still need to rule, after which the district court judge in Georgia can then rule in accordance.

    After that, we still have the new post-mortem federal class-action cases against the Rowan County KY clerk and the Hood County TX clerk, and possibly a few more in the same vein, popping up in the immediate future.

    Oh, and let's not forget Judge Crabtree in Kansas, and whatever got appealed out of Kansas to the 10th Circuit Court in the original "Marie v. Moser" case. There are at least two more rulings coming from that arena.

    Judge Granade in the "Strawser" class-action case in Alabama still has to issue her permanent injunction, while Judge Reeves in the Mississippi case still has to issue his orders of clarification against any/all recalcitrant clerks in that state.

    And Paul Hard still needs to be awarded his money in the long-standing Alabama federal wrongful death suit.

    Plus, there are two hopeless appeals before the 4th Circuit Court, one from North Carolina and one from South Carolina, which will be dismissed in due course. And two more hopeless appeals are before the 9th Circuit Court, one from Montana and one from Arizona. These can all be dismissed whenever the judges "get a round tuit."

  • 11. F_Young  |  July 9, 2015 at 5:15 am

    VIRick: "Yes, the Eighth Circuit…"

    God, Rick, I don't know how you do it! Thanks for keeping everybody updated.

  • 12. Steve27516  |  July 8, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    This is welcome news. I'm eager for my friends in Puerto Rico to have full marriage equality.
    Meanwhile, I'm puzzled by the mandate link. The court paperwork seems to say, in layman's terms, "this is a mandate" — but it doesn't say what is being mandated. Those more knowledgeable than I am, please help me understand. Thank you –

  • 13. StraightDave  |  July 8, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Scottie included 2 links in his post.
    "Has ruled" is the courts judgement of the case, which mentions the mandate will follow..
    "Been issued" is the actual mandate which essentially says "now go do what I just decided you must do".

    It's Captain Kirk saying "make it so". (or was that Picard?)

  • 14. sfbob  |  July 8, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    That was Picard. 🙂

  • 15. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Steve, you need both the judgment and the mandate, both issued today, 8 July 2015.

    The First Circuit Court issued its Judgment, vacating the lower court judgment that upheld Puerto Rico's marriage ban and referring the case back to the lower court to take action consistent with the Supreme Court decision in "Obergefell."

    "Upon consideration of the parties' Joint Response Pursuant to Court Order filed June 26, 2015, we vacate the district court's Judgment in this case and remand the matter for further consideration in light of 'Obergefell v. Hodges.' We agree with the parties' joint position (that is, both the plaintiffs and the state) that the ban is unconstitutional. Mandate to issue forthwith."

    Ahora, en español:

    El Primer Tribunal de Circuito emitió su fallo, desocupar la sentencia de primera instancia que confirmó la prohibición del matrimonio de Puerto Rico y la remisión del caso al tribunal inferior para actuar en consonancia con la decisión del Tribunal Supremo en "Obergefell."

  • 16. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    State of Florida Concedes Defeat in State Marriage Cases

    On 7 July 2015, very quietly, the state of Florida voluntarily dismissed two state court marriage cases which it had appealed months ago with much fanfare, "State of Florida v. Huntsman," the case from Monroe County (Key West), and "State of Florida v. Pareto," the case from Miami-Dade, both of which had overturned Florida's marriage ban for same-sex couples, and which will now both be final.

  • 17. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    "Jernigan v. McDaniel" (8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Arkansas federal marriage case)

    On 8 July 2015, the state defendants filed a "Suggestion of Mootness" and a "Motion to Vacate the District Court's Order and Judgment."

    Arkansas has joined the list of states (like South Dakota) seeking to vacate the lower court's ruling. According to Equality Case Files, the effect of this, if granted, would be to:

    (1) leave the state without a federal order against enforcing its discriminatory marriage ban
    (2) undermine the plaintiffs' claims for attorney's fees.

  • 18. sfbob  |  July 8, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    That's interesting information. I would assume that the plaintiffs would object to this; after all, the suit was filed it was anything but moot and would seem only reasonable that the court would or at least should award them any costs associated with having to pursue this case even AFTER 6/26 (such as for example responding to the State's motion). I don't really know how these things work of course but it does seem as though it would be an injustice for the plaintiffs not to at least receive some legal fees; after all, the state lost.

    As for item 1) I assume it wouldn't really matter since Obergefell has effectively overturned all remaining state marriage equality bans whether there was an actual court order or not.

  • 19. StraightDave  |  July 8, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    While I agree that Obergefell logically overturned the state ban (at least in most people's minds), I believe the actual effect was only that "if a case like this ever comes up in AR, the federal court has a precedent it must follow". Given the immense amount of useless horseshit some of the states have been pulling already, there would be nothing to stop them from dragging the case thru the muck, anyway, and wasting a lot of time and money. Much better to put a stake thru its heart right now while it's fresh and get the judgement and order on the books.

  • 20. sfbob  |  July 8, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    It's a tough call to make. As has been noted here more than once a separate federal lawsuit was required in order to bring Alabama into full compliance with Loving vs Virginia. And that was three years after the SCOTUS ruling. It took considerably longer for Alabama to remove the discriminatory language from its statutes and presumably the continued existence of those laws and the laws in other states that remained (until only 15 years ago) could well have been used to create situations where some couples could have needed to go to court to vindicate their rights. In addition a number of states have staunchly refused to remove their sodomy laws. Although nobody can successfully be prosecuted for violating such laws they can and likely have been used to harass gay people in various places.

    I will note on the other hand that unlike the long-lasting resistance to Brown vs Board of Education as far as I can tell resistance to Loving was quite limited. The more recent case (was it perhaps five years ago) where a Louisiana justice of the peace refused to marry an interracial couple was the act of a rogue since the state's anti-miscegenation law had been repealed years earlier. And the JP was punished.

    What we are more likely to see rather than a refusal to acknowledge Obergefell directly will come more along the lines of the more insidious "religious freedom" ordinances. I don't think those are likely to work very well since if they are narrowly drawn they will reveal their true intention and if they are drawn to broadly they will invite all sorts of abuse that the proponents don't actually want. And of course if we ever achieve a reliable majority in the Supreme Court we can look forward to all such laws being struck down as impermissible infringements of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • 21. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Bob, indeed! However, in item (1), you're assuming that everyone in authority in Arkansas, from AG Rutledge right down to the last county clerk, would automatically behave themselves, and abide by the Supreme Court's ruling. I'm afraid Arkansas is far more "special" than that.

    Instead, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is now going to have to make a ruling. Even though Missouri and Nebraska withdrew their appeals (thereby conceding defeat), as did Florida in the two marriage cases previously under appeal in state court, this motion from Arkansas to vacate the lower court ruling (as also suggested by the state of South Dakota), is under-handed and nasty (and even flies in the face of the ruling of the Arkansas Supreme Court when they finally ruled in accordance with "Obergefell" in "Wright v. Arkansas"). Of course, these motions will need a reply from the plaintiffs' attorneys, racking up even more legal expense. South Dakota's plaintiffs just filed their rebuttal on this same issue.

  • 22. sfbob  |  July 9, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Certainly we can't count on any of these characters acting in good faith and actually obeying their oath of office. Still there will be recourse.

  • 23. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    1st Circuit Rules Puerto Rico Marriage Ban Unconstitutional, Marriages to Begin!

    A three-judge panel with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on July 8, 2015, ruled Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. US Circuit Court Judges Juan Torruella, Ojetta Rogerlee Thompson, and William Kayatta, Jr., issued their ruling less than two weeks after the US Supreme Court released their decision that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country.

    Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez of San Juan in March 2014 filed their pro se lawsuit in US District Court in order to force the US commonwealth to recognize their Massachusetts marriage. Four additional same-sex couples and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, joined the case a few months later.

    In October 2014, US. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez dismissed the case, but the plaintiffs appealed it to the 1st Circuit that includes the island within its jurisdiction. Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s administration announced in March of this year that they would no longer defend the US commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban.

    Marriages between same-sex couples are expected to begin in Puerto Rico on 15 July 2015.

    Tonight, the headlines in Puerto Rico read:

    Primer Circuito de Boston ratifica el matrimonio gay en la Isla
    (First Circuit affirms gay marriage in the island)

    Determinó que era inconstitucional la prohibición de las bodas entre personas del mismo sexo
    (It's been determined that it's unconstitutional to ban marriage between same-sex couples)

    Con fecha la boda masiva entre parejas del mismo sexo
    (With the (upcoming) date, the mass wedding between same-sex couples)

    En las próximas semanas, se realizará el tan esperado evento para unir ante la ley a parejas gay en Puerto Rico
    (In the coming weeks, the long-awaited event will be realized, to unite under the law, gay couples in Puerto Rico)

  • 24. davepCA  |  July 8, 2015 at 10:45 pm


  • 25. VIRick  |  July 8, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Yes, Dave, I love it! Never mind that the 1st Circuit Court actually remanded the case back to the district court for adjudication in light of "Obergefell." All they had to hear in Puerto Rico was that the 1st Circuit ruled the ban unconstitutional. In any event, marriage is on, the commencement date has been set for 15 July 2015 (actually, as per the governor's executive order of 26 June 2015), and mass marriage ceremonies are being planned to occur all over the island! And I'm totally excited!

    Even with their delayed start, I feel it in my heart that Puerto Rico is better than Alabama, and will beat them in the full compliance department by a very wide margin. Plus, they'll probably also beat Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Kentucky.

    I love this recent photo taken in front of Puerto Rico's Capitolio:

  • 26. scream4ever  |  July 9, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Does the Virgin Islands have a date set yet? I know I should know the answer to that but I just thought I'd ask anyways lol!

  • 27. VIRick  |  July 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Not yet.

  • 28. 1grod  |  July 9, 2015 at 2:57 am

    NO MANDATE NECESSARY! Scottie please advise probate judge David Money of Henry Co, as well as and AG Luther Strange. Equality Alabama needs to put the following in their collective face "“Because Obergefell was an appeal from the courts of the United States, it is governed by Rule 45(3) of the Supreme Court Rules, which provides that no formal mandate is necessary. The decision was thus effective when issued." Chilton Co's July 6 brief to the AL Supreme Court. Someone also needs to expose the hypocrisy of Roy Moore. What about a letter to the editor.… G

  • 29. JayJonson  |  July 9, 2015 at 6:36 am

    I haven't seen any discussion here about the Arkansas rogue clerk who said she would defy the Supreme Court because of her religious views. She has had a change of mind. I am guessing that what probably changed her mind was the threat of a lawsuit and perhaps her County telling her that they would not foot the bill for the litigation. In any case, here is a link to a story about her:

    Always glad to see another bigot leaning a lesson.

  • 30. RnL2008  |  July 9, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Frankly, these folks need to understand that if they DON'T do their job, they should seriously face the CONSEQUENCES of their actions………Bigots like these NEED to be fired!!

  • 31. sfbob  |  July 9, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I understood that the reason she backed off was that someone politely informed her that her "manifesto" could make her liable to be prosecuted for sedition. Or perhaps I just imagined that.

  • 32. A_Jayne  |  July 9, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Per the LGBTQ article:

    Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford said her office will issue the licenses to any couples who ask for them, saying she reversed course after meeting with an attorney.

    “Apparently there’s no way around it,” Bradford said. “I don’t agree with it, but legally we’re going to have to issue them.”

    But I really hope you're correct – that someone pointed out that her seditious comments could bring her more trouble than just potential litigation (which would likely include personal financial costs…)

  • 33. RemC  |  July 9, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    As I posted on another thread, Bradford recently changed her Facebook profile picture to the Confederate flag:

    Pretty scary. And ugly.

  • 34. jcmeiners  |  July 9, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Now that she lost on marriage equality, it didn't take her long to express her hatred in another way. What a sad person.

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