Same-sex marriages: latest developments

Associated PressMay 15, 2014 

Ten years ago Saturday, gay couples in Massachusetts became the first in the nation to legally tie the knot.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have legalized same-sex marriage. Judges in seven other states have struck down bans on gay marriage, though officials are appealing. In one of those states, Arkansas, more than 400 same-sex weddings have taken place in the past week amid uncertainty over the scope of the ruling.

Here are the latest legal developments.

Idaho gay marriage placed on hold; rallies planned

In Idaho, same-sex couples planning to marry and supporters hoping to help them celebrate at courthouses across Idaho saw their plans put on hold Thursday by a federal appeals court.

But some Boise residents said they would gather anyway, trading weddings for rallies.

Idaho’s gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Candy Dale said the law unconstitutionally denied gay and lesbian residents their fundamental right to marry. Dale said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting Friday morning.

But Thursday afternoon, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay while it considers whether a longer stay is needed. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden both had asked the court to place Dale’s ruling on hold while they appeal.

Christopher Stoll, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the organization was pleased that the 9th Circuit will carefully consider their arguments that no stay is warranted.

The group helped represent the four Idaho couples who brought the lawsuit that led to Dale’s ruling.

“We trust the court will consider the matter promptly,” Stoll said in a prepared statement. “We hope the appeals court will allow the district court’s order to take effect as soon as possible so that all Idaho families can enjoy the important protections that marriage provides.”

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples and their supporters were planning to gather Friday at the Ada County Courthouse for weddings and celebration.

Several local businesses and supporters had promised to participate by offering free flowers, wedding photography, coffee and discounted pastries to couples getting married. Some residents who are ordained to perform weddings also offered their services.

Event organizer Emily Walton said Thursday that many of the people who were hoping to celebrate at the courthouse in the morning are still planning to show up. But she said the “party” will take on a different tone.

“Many people didn’t think this court decision would be made in Idaho for another 10 years. So I think this is a huge surprise it’s this close to being a possibility,” Walton said. “This will eventually happen. … We’re this much closer.”

Will Heatter said his floral shop, Flowers at Will, was going to give free bouquets or boutonnieres to the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license. He also wanted to be at the courthouse with his partner to “watch love happen.”

Though he knew a stay was a possibility, Heatter said he was surprised by the news.

“If tomorrow’s not the day, then tomorrow’s not the day – but we’re not giving up the fight,” said Heatter, who still plans to attend the gathering. “In my heart, I know we’re one step closer.”

Meanwhile, at least one Idaho business announced it would rather close than offer services to gay couples. Coeur d'Alene’s Hitching Post, a popular wedding chapel, told the Spokesman-Review that it would not perform marriages for same-sex couples, even if that meant closing its doors after being open for 95 years.

But city attorney Warren Wilson said wedding venues that turn away gay couples could be in violation of Coeur d'Alene’s local law that prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

The 9th Circuit in San Francisco already is reviewing a gay marriage case out of Nevada.

In that case, eight gay couples are challenging Nevada’s constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2002 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal judge in Reno upheld the law in 2012, prompting the appeal.

Arguments still haven’t been set in that case. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the state ban.

Elsewhere, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is reviewing same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma that were overturned by federal court judges. The appeals court has heard arguments on both cases, and a ruling is expected soon.

A state judge in Arkansas struck down all bans on gay marriage Thursday, clearing up a previous order that created confusion among the state’s county clerks.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a law keeping clerks from issuing marriages to same-sex couples remained on the books despite a decision from a circuit court judge to declare gay marriage bans unconstitutional. The circuit judge’s revised order allowed couples to move forward with same-sex marriages.


Judge strikes all Arkansas bans on gay marriage

An Arkansas, a judge cleared the way on Thursday for gay marriages to resume, striking down all state laws that prevent same-sex couples from wedding.

A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the state, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban to also include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.

Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.

“The same cannot be said of the plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite sex counterparts,” Piazza wrote. “A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state.”

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal and was asking the high court to suspend Piazza’s latest order. McDaniel, a Democrat, recently said he supports gay marriage but would continue defending the state’s ban in court.

“This order clarifies what we understood Judge Piazza had attempted to do last week, and it does not change our posture of seeking a stay from the Arkansas Supreme Court and pursuing an appeal,” McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said.

Pulaski County, one of two counties that had been issuing licenses before the high court’s decision, said it planned to resume issuing licenses to same-sex couples immediately. The other, Washington County, was not issuing licenses Thursday.

An attorney for the couples who had sued over the ban said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

“I think his intent all along was to strike down any of these statutes that interfered with a same-sex couple obtaining a marriage license in the state,” attorney Jack Wagoner said. “The fact he didn’t call out the statute number of one of those statutes was an oversight.”

Last Friday, Piazza threw out a 10-year-old ban that voters placed in the state constitution, as well as a separate state law barring same-sex marriages.

After Piazza’s decision last Friday, clerks in five counties responded by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Through Wednesday evening, 456 gay couples in Arkansas had since received permission to marry, according to an Associated Press canvass of county clerks. By Wednesday, only Pulaski and Washington counties were issuing licenses.

Arkansas voters approved a gay marriage ban by a 3-to-1 margin in 2004.

Seventeen other states allow gay marriage. Judges have struck down bans in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

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