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Gay Texas Couple Was First To Obtain Marriage License 42 Years Ago, But Did They Help Or Hurt The Movement?

Marriage

Forty-two years ago, two men obtained a marriage license in Wharton County, Texas — in what was one of the nation's first government-recognized same-sex marriages. 

The Houston Chronicle reported Friday on the marriage of Antonio Molina and William "Billie" Ert (above), which took place on Oct. 5, 1972. 

Ert, who performed as a drag queen named Mr. Vicki Carr, wore a wig, make-up and a dress to the clerk's office — tricking officials into issuing the couple a license. 

Two days later, Molina and Ert held a ceremony in Houston, with the minister who founded Dallas' Metropolitan Community Church officiating. But by then their same-sex marriage made national headlines, and the clerk declined to record the couple's license.

Molina and Ert obtained their marriage license just months before the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a federal lawsuit challenging Minnesota's same-sex marriage ban, Baker v. Nelson. The high court wouldn't take up the issue again until it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States last year.

Based on the Baker decision, Molina and Ert ultimately lost a legal fight to have the license recorded, and the next year the Texas Legislature passed the state's first ban on same-sex marriage.  

The Houston Chronicle reports that Molina and Ert's case "set back the Texas gay marriage movement 40 years while also helping to inspire a generation of civil rights advocates": 

Much of the general public's discomfort with the idea was directly attributable to the movement's early characters, said State University of New York-Buffalo Law Professor Michael Boucai.

"In the Texas case, you have a drag queen. That's not how gay marriage advocates like to represent their current constituency," said Boucai. In Kentucky, one half of a lesbian couple who sued for marriage operated a questionable massage service. Two men in Washington State did not actually believe in the institution of marriage, but still thought they should be able to partake. "They're just not convenient."

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, told the Chronicle: 

"These early marriage cases really were reflective of the fact that gay people have always wanted it. But they also remind us it's not just about filing the case in court. You also have to make the case in the court of public opinion."

But Melissa Murray, a law professor at UC-Berkeley, said:

"What these cases did was to bring gay couples, loving couples to the forefront, out of the closet and out of the shadows. I don't think you could have a contemporary marriage movement without them."

After losing their legal fight, Molina and Ert eventually split up. Ert attempted suicide but survived. However, the Chronicle was unable to determine whether he's still alive. Molina died in 1991. 

Forty-two years after Ert and Molina obtained a marriage license, Texas same-sex couples eagerly await a federal district judge's decision on a motion that could allow it to happen again. 

Read the Houston Chronicle story about Ert and Molina here


Edie Windsor Urges Florida Governor Rick Scott to Stop Fighting Gay Marriage - AUDIO

Windsor

Edie Windsor has a message for slimy Florida Governor Rick Scott, who continues to hide his fight against marriage equality behind Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Edie Windsor Urges Florida Governor Rick Scott to Stop Fighting Gay Marriage - AUDIO" »


Rachel Maddow Looks At SCOTUS' October Surprise, Interviews 'Incredibly Joyous' Edie Windsor: VIDEO

Rachel

Yesterday, in the wake of the Supreme Court's refusal to take up any of the seven marriage equality cases pending before it, our own Ari Ezra Waldman offered analysis as to why each judge on the Court may have wanted to duck the equality question at this time. On her show last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at the path that led to yesterday's decision (or lack thereof) and what may have motivated it. She wondered, since it only takes 4 votes for the Supreme Court to decide to hear a case, why didn't the anti-gay marriage wing of the Court (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas) want to take the opportunity to try and reverse some of the "damage" done by United States v. Windsor (a case in which all 4 justices dissented)? Could there be a Machiavellian motive at play?

Watch and listen to Rachel's take along with an interview with Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Rachel Maddow Looks At SCOTUS' October Surprise, Interviews 'Incredibly Joyous' Edie Windsor: VIDEO" »


Marriage Equality Comes to Arkansas: A Legal Analysis

By ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Arkansas-Judge-Chris-PiazzaLate Friday, Judge Chris Piazza (right), a state court judge in Arkansas, declared his state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and ordered the county clerk's office to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. It was the first post-Windsor marriage equality decision based on federal and state grounds. And because he did not stay his order, gay couples could almost immediately get married (and have!). The Arkansas attorney general has filed a motion for a stay and only a select few counties are following the judge's order.

You may be asking yourself a few questions: How did this all come about? Why a state court case, especially since most of our post-Windsor success (save New Jersey and New Mexico) has come through the federal courts? Why are certain county clerks defying the judge and not issuing marriage licenses? What happens now?

Marriage equality lawsuits are proliferating throughout the country: most of them are run by or have the participation of the major gay rights litigation concerns (Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, for example). Some, like the one in Arkansas, were filed by private attorneys on behalf of a phalanx of local couples who just want to get married near their families or have their out-of-state marriages recognized by their home state.

These plaintiffs are just like all the other marriage equality plaintiffs. They just want the freedom to love. And like so many other marriage equality decisions, this one proves that we are in a different world after the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Marriage Equality Comes to Arkansas: A Legal Analysis" »


Justice Ginsburg Calls Edie Windsor ‘Such A Well-Chosen Plaintiff’

GinsburgSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a badass. I know because last March, I had the privilege of witnessing the oral arguments in United States v. Windsor and will forever remember her quip that with DOMA in place, the U.S. effectively had two kinds of marriage in place: "there’s full marriage and then there’s sort of skim milk marriage”

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ginsburg was asked to give her thoughts on the public’s reaction to that landmark case and the cultural shift towards greater public support for marriage equality. 

Said Ginsburg:

The reaction to Windsor I think has been positive from the public. She was such a well-chosen plaintiff. People could understand the injustice of the way she was treated. I haven’t seen a social change that rapid in – ever. It’s just great that people who for years have been disguising what they were are now free to be what they are. 

When asked why the court ruled narrowly in the case and didn’t address the bigger question of whether state laws could deny marriage to same-sex couples, Ginsburg responded:

You saw the way the court disposed of the California case. The court generally moves in small steps rather than in one giant step. I think Thurgood Marshall’s litigation is a good example of that. For years he was not arguing that ‘separate but equal’ had to go [but rather attacking segregation incrementally]. Then, then when he had all the building blocks in place, he could bring the Brown litigation.

Ginsburg also said the numerous court cases working their way through the system that have used the Windsor ruling to strike down restrictions on gay marriage are an “inevitable next step on the part of people who [are] trying to promote a greater understanding.”

You can check out her full interview HERE, in which she goes on to give her thoughts on President Obama, congressional gridlock, the Affordable Care Act, and officiating gay marriages.  


President Obama Thanks Edie Windsor in the Oval Office: PHOTO

Windsor_obama

President Obama invited DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor to the France State Dinner this week and thanked her in the Oval Office at a separate meeting, reports Valerie Jarrett on the White House blog:

"The thanks expressed by the President that day have been echoed by millions of Americans, including thousands of legally married couples who can now live their lives with greater justice and dignity – thanks to heroes like Edie Windsor who have been willing to stand up and fight for equality under the law."

(official White House photo by Pete Souza)


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