National News: February 2015
Same-Sex marriage Victory in Florida!
Ending weeks of confusion over the effects of a ruling that struck down Florida’s same-sex marriage ban, a federal judge kicked off the new year with clear instructions that all gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle issued a four-page order on New Years Day stating that all of Florida’s 67 clerks had “every right” to abide by an August decision overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Furthermore, wrote Hinkle, any Florida clerk who decides not to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning next week could face expensive legal action.
Florida is the 36th state to legalize gay marriage.
VA. Lawmakers at odds in aftermath of marriage equality’s arrival
More than three months after marriage equality reached Virginia, lawmakers in Richmond are divided over how to incorporate it into state law. Democratic legislators, with the backing of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, are seeking to remove language banning same-sex marriage from the state’s constitution and statutes. Republicans argue that the Supreme Court should weigh in before the state makes substantial changes to its marriage law.
In related news, McAuliffe has promised to veto a bill “in a nanosecond” that would allow state licensed or accredited business owners to deny service to someone based on their religious beliefs.
Michigan to recognize same-sex marriages of over 300 couples
A federal judge ruled that Michigan must recognize the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples, who married after the state’s marriage ban was struck down, as valid. “In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder,” U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote in his statement.
Goldsmith’s ruling does not address the constitutionality of Michigan’s marriage equality ban, which was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November and is currently before the United States Supreme Court.
Supreme court to make landmark decision
President Barack Obama has predicted that the Supreme Court is “about to make a shift” on same sex-marriage. His prediction comes as the Supreme Court refused to put a hold on same-sex marriages in Alabama.
Prior to the ruling, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore made a last-ditch effort to stop the state’s judges from issuing marriage licences. “When federal law is in conflict with state law, federal law wins out,” Obama said. “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states.”
Alabama starts to marry same-sex couples
Alabama is now the 37th state in which same-sex couples can legally marry. The United States Supreme Court denied a request by the Alabama Attorney General to extend a hold on a federal judge’s ruling overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Shante Wolf, 21 and wife Tori Sisson were the first couple to be issued a marriage license in Jefferson County. “It’s about time,” Wolfe said, smiling as she left the courthouse.
Marriage Ban struck down in south dakota
A federal judge has overturned South Dakota’s ban on marriage equality. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier wrote in her decision that the plaintiffs “have a fundamental right to marry,” and cited that the ban violates rights under the 14th Amendment.
The ruling was stayed pending an appeal from state officials, which if pursued, would send the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where two other cases are still pending.
Transgender Teen’s Suicide Sparks National Conversation
Leelah Alcorn (above), a transgender 17-year-old from Kings Mills, OH., committed suicide after battling with what she called “a life that [wasn’t] worth living.” Leelah, born male, was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 near Cincinnati. Shortly after her death, a preprogrammed suicide note appeared on her Tumblr account.
“Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in…because I’m transgender,” the note said. “To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4.” When Leelah told her mother about her gender identity, her mother “reacted extremely negatively” because of the family’s religious belief saying that “God doesn’t make mistakes” and that she was wrong for feeling like “a girl trapped in a boy’s body.”
Leelah went on to write; “if you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids,” the note says. “Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate themself. That’s exactly what it did to me.”
After her death, Alcorn’s mother referred to Leelah using male pronouns in an interview with CNN, telling them that while they didn’t support him, they “loved their son.”
Leelah concluded her note saying; “the only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.”
(Click here to read more about Leelah’s Story)
Mississippi city repeals pro-lgbt ordinances
Aldermen in Starksville, Mississippi voted to override a host of LGBT-friendly policies that had been touted as groundbreaking when they were passed last year. The city’s equality resolution is a non-discrimination policy that includes language protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and ended its plus-one insurance option available to workers’ same-sex partners.
According to The Commercial Dispatch, the action took place without public discussion or warning. After initially passing the resolutions in 2014, the board of alderman rescinded the resolutions on January 6th. Mayor Parker Wiseman (left) vetoed the decision, but the board of aldermen had enough votes to override the veto.
By Rachel Roth