National News: December ’14/January ’15
Marriage Equality Update:
The Future for Florida
A federal appeals court has ruled to lift the stay in Florida’s case on same-sex marriage. In August, a federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional but a court clerk in Washington County along with secretaries of the Florida Department of Health and Department of Management Services requested a stay.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against extending the stay and, barring further legal opposition, same-sex couples could marry in Florida beginning January 6th.
Following Montana, Florida could be the 36th state to allow, and recognize, gay marriages.
Same-Sex Marriage Chaos in Kansas
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriages can continue in Kansas. It rejected the suspension that a local district court had granted. An application for a stay was presented to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor but was denied.
State officials who have been battling to maintain the ban on same-sex marriage replied to the ruling by insinuating that it could only apply to the counties in which the plaintiffs came from. Doug Bonney, the legal director of American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas believes that the federal order applies across the state.
Kansas is the 33rd state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Missouri to Appeal Marriage Equality Ruling
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (right) announced last week that his office will appeal a ruling by a federal judge that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith, a Clinton appointee, determined Missouri’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
A state judge has also ruled against the ban. Koster said he would not seek a stay of the ruling and at least one county in the state has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
North/South Carolina Marriage Troubles
A federal judge struck down South Carolina’s ban on gay marriages on Nov. 12, a stay of the ruling was put in place until Nov. 20, to give the state time to appeal – which Attorney General Alan Wilson announced he plans to do. While marriages have begun, Wilson has filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay on the ruling.
Six magistrates in North Carolina have left their posts since two judges ruled that the voter-passed Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Rather than upholding the law and performing marriages, the magistrates have left their posts. The ban was struck down on Oct. 10.
Four States Cases Heading to the Supreme Court
Couples from the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee marriage cases are seeking Supreme Court review of the decision of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the states’ bans on same-marriages. The ruling reversed lower-court decisions in all four of the states keeping gay marriage bans in place.
Anti-GLBT Cardinal Sinks in Church Hierarchy
Pope Francis has moved conservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke (left) from his post on the Vatican’s highest court to a largely ceremonial position of patron of the Knights of Malta, a move Catholic Church observers see as evidence of the institution’s changing social attitudes.
The 66-year old Burke has criticized Francis’ leadership, particularly his openness to a more inclusive environment for gays and lesbians.
Archbishop Criticizes Policy Changes at Universities
The archbishop of Omaha criticized Creighton University (above) in Nebraska for extending health benefits to the same-sex spouses of university employees. Archbishop George Lucas characterized the shift as a tacit endorsement of marriage equality. “I am dismayed that the recommendation of the University Benefits Committee is thought to supersede divine law regarding marriage,” Lucas said in a statement. The University of Notre Dame announced a similar change in October.
Around the Nation:
Trans Army Employee Faced Discrimination, Report Says
A report released by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that the Department of the Army engaged in discrimination against Tamara Lusardi, a transgender civilian employee and veteran. Lusardi was barred from using the restroom for her gender and was repeatedly referred to with male pronouns, the report noted. The Army has since agreed to implement sensitivity training.
R.I. Simplifies Process for Changing Birth Certificates
It is now easier for transgender men and women to change their birth certificates in Rhode Island. The Providence Journal reported that new regulations went into effect on Nov. 11 that allow a gender marker change based on a medical provider’s certification that the individual has undergone surgical and/or hormone treatment “or other treatment appropriate for the individual.” Previously, the Rhode Island Department of Health essentially required gender reassignment surgery in order to change the gender designation on a birth certificate.
Houston Officials Resist Ruling on Same-Sex Benefits
A Texas judge ordered the city of Houston to stop offering benefits to same-sex spouses of city officials. According to city officials, the order will not take effect since a federal judge already has ruled that the benefits should be extended, ABC-affiliate KTRK-TV reported.
In Dallas, however, voters approved a referendum to amend the city charter to include protections for GLBT city employees. More than three-quarters of voters supported the referendum. Dallas already prohibits GLBT discrimination against city workers in its equal employment opportunity policy.
Gay, Lesbian Couples Win Rights to Adopt in Utah
Utah’s Supreme Court lifted a stay that prevented the state Department of Health from issuing birth certificates to same-sex couples adopting children. The stay was put in place in May after several district judges ordered that the birth certificates be issued.
The state dropped its legal fight over adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples after the Supreme Court declined to review rulings allowing same-sex marriage in a number of states, including Utah.
By Rachel Roth