Monday, October 6, 2014

Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and... !

The Supremes issued a great piece of news today. They had seven marriage equality cases before them – and denied to review all of them. No explanation was given. I took a look at the order document. It is 89 pages. A good chunk of it – pages 8 to perhaps 60 – is a long list of cases that were not accepted for review. I think I heard 2,000 cases arrive at the Supreme Court every year and they have time to hear maybe 40 of them.

That means the same-sex marriage issue goes back to the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts and all of them had previously ruled in our favor. They are, at various speeds now removing the stays that prevented same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Quite an important non-decision by the Supremes.

The next question is how, or perhaps how soon, does marriage equality come to the other states in those circuits? The affected states are:

4th Circuit: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia (Maryland already has equality).

5th Circuit: (Illinois already has equality)

10 Circuit: Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming (New Mexico already has equality)

According to Ari Ezra Waldman of Towleroad an additional step is needed to bring equality to these six states. The attorney general or governor of the state could say that since their Circuit Court is about to issue an order, we might as well start allowing same-sex marriages. Or they could wait for the actual order. Or they could be defiant – and as soon as a same-sex couple was denied a license the resulting lawsuit would be resolved swiftly.

Waldman also supplies some meaning to these denials:

* If a majority of the Supremes were against equality they would have taken one of the cases. So the Supremes are saying indirectly they are on our side.

* Since there is no split decisions between circuits there is no need for the Supremes to get involved, so they won't.

* C'mon, 6th Circuit, we dare you to be that dissenting voice! The 6th Circuit equality cases – including Michigan's case – were heard two months ago but no ruling given. Is the 6th Circuit waiting for the Supremes? Well...

The reaction:

Virginia: We're ready to go! The state AG was one who declined to defend the ban in court.

Wisconsin: A couple counties will issue licenses. AG: We made every effort to defend the ban, but we'll support same-sex marriage now. Gov: We'll evaluate the impact and determine next steps. He sounds mighty reluctant.

Oklahoma and Utah: The 10th Circuit has lifted the stays.

The Oklahoma governor is pouting that with this ruling human rights trump states rights.

The Mormon leaders say alright, fine, but God only accepts man-woman marriages.

Indiana: The clerk for Marion County has started issuing licenses. The urgency is over so we won't offer immediate civil ceremonies.

Colorado: We're just waiting for formalities to be resolved and then we'll start issuing licenses.

North Carolina: ACLU is getting ready to ask a federal judge to strike down the state's ban.

South Carolina: AG is defiant: We will fight on to protect marriage until there is an actual ruling against our ban!

Kansas: As in North Carolina, the ACLU will prod things along.

Marriages have indeed begun in all five states named in the lawsuits. And some clerks in Colorado aren't waiting for the formalities.

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has issued his screech and condemnation of the Supremes – if you really need to read it. A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention warns members that even though this doesn't have the "shock and awe" of a ruling, it is still momentous. Is this a white flag?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in a snit, complaining of the worst judicial activism. But, Ted, wasn't it only 3 months ago you were praising the Supremes for their Hobby Lobby decision? It seems, though, that he and Utah Senator Mike Lee are the only two GOP senators who had anything to say. The rest of the party is quite silent. Perhaps John Boehner is too busy – he's in San Diego raising money for a gay GOP congressional candidate. As for the rest, perhaps they're disappointed the issue isn't over – there's still 20 states to deal with.

A judge in Missouri ruled last Friday that the state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Since Missouri borders Iowa, Oklahoma, and Illinois, all now offering same-sex weddings, the AG has decided not to appeal this decision. How soon will the wedding business in Missouri be clamoring for a piece of the action?

Alas, delving into more of the analysis and reaction that's out there will have to wait for another day.

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