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Hear Why This Florida Gay Man Is Refusing Jury Duty to Protest Homophobic County Clerk: VIDEO

   Chapman

Chuck Chapman, a 63 year-old gay Floridian who refused jury duty in protest of Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, has been allowed to abstain without facing charges for being in contempt of the court. Chapman explained that while he was proud, tax-paying Floridian eager to do right by his state, he could not abide by Fussell’s petulant attempt at denying gay people to marry.

FussellFussell (right) and two other clerks representing other Florida counties decided that they would no longer issue marriage licenses at the courthouse to any newlywed couples be they gay or straight. The move was a last ditch effort to snub U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling that legalized gay marriages earlier this year.

"If the clerk of the court doesn't feel comfortable performing same sex marriages, as an openly gay man, I don't know how I can feel comfortable in court,” Chapman explained to the court judge after being asked whether he held fast to any prejudices. "I'm a taxpayer in this community. I'm a citizen in this community. My rights should be across the board just like anybody else has and anybody else wants and anybody else needs."

He continued:

"The clerk of the court said they would not perform anyone's wedding, heterosexual, homosexual, anyone. There were 1900 weddings performed in the courthouse in 2013. There's a chapel in that courthouse for weddings. There's money being lost on that courthouse because the clerks of the court do not feel comfortable marrying same-sex partners.

I hope this brings some awareness to the clerk of the courts. This is Duval County. Until this community gets in a position and embraces diversity, we'll never move forward."

Watch a First Coast News report on the story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hear Why This Florida Gay Man Is Refusing Jury Duty to Protest Homophobic County Clerk: VIDEO" »


Texas AG Ken Paxton Blasts 'Misguided' Gay Marriage Ruling, Requests Stay from State Supreme Court

PaxtonTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a statement blasting Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman's Tuesday ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 

Herman's ruling opened the door for the first same-sex marriage in Texas to take place earlier today in Travis County. 

Said Paxton:

“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman. The probate judge’s misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

No response yet from U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn or Gov. Greg Abbott. Or ex-Governor Rick Perry. 

Stay tuned.


First Same-Sex Marriage License Issued in Texas

Texas
(twitter)

A couple in Austin have just obtained the first same-sex marriage license in Texas, The Austin American Statesman reports:

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, together almost 31 years, said their vows before Rabbi Kerry Baker while standing in front of the Travis County Clerk’s Office sign on Airport Boulevard.

The couple was denied a license in the same office building eight years ago.

But on Thursday morning, state District Judge David Wahlberg, petitioned by a lawyer for Goodfriend and Bryant, ordered Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to grant the couple a marriage license.

The ceremony was a mix of personal – with friends and their teenage daughters, Dawn and Ting, standing nearby – and public statement, with photos of their vows in front of the county sign.

“It’s very exciting,” Bryant said before the wedding. “My little one was worried about missing her history class. I said we’ll be making history.”

The news comes two days after a Travis County probate judge issued a ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A federal judge struck down the ban last February - a decision that is currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

It appears this may be the only same-sex marriage performed in the state at the moment:

Watch Goodfriend and Bryant's emotional reaction to the federal judge's ruling last February, AFTER THE JUMP...(warning: autoplay). We've also included Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir's interview with local radio station KUT on the circumstances surrounding the license.

Developing...

Continue reading "First Same-Sex Marriage License Issued in Texas" »


Judge Rules Homophobic Washington Florist Broke the Law for Discriminating Against Gay Customer

Stuzman

A judge has ruled against Barronelle Stuzman, the Richland florist who in 2013 refused to provide flowers for a longtime customer's wedding to his same-sex partner because of her "relationship with Jesus Christ," the Associated Press reports:

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren't necessarily protected, he said.

"For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief," Ekstrom wrote. "The Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief."

Ekstrom ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in two cases against Stuzman - the first being an ACLU case for customer Robert Ingersoll and his husband Curt Freed and a second case from Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who claimed Stuzman violated Washington's Consumer Protection Act. 

The Washington Post adds:

The penalty against Stutzman and her business will be settled via summary judgment, or without a full trial. Ingersoll and Freed, who have since married, had sued for $7.91 (the cost of driving to find a new florist). Stutzman also faces a fine of up to $2,000 under Washington’s anti-discrimination law, as well as the cost of legal fees.

Stutzman’s attorney said that she’ll be appealing the order.

“The ruling basically said that if you dare to not celebrate same-sex marriage because it violates your religious convictions, that the government has a right to bring about your personal and professional ruin,” Kristen Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Los Angeles Times. “Her home, her business … her life savings and retirement, these are all in jeopardy … all because of her deeply held religious views.”


Oklahoma Lawmakers Advance Anti-Gay Bills Aimed At Stopping Same-Sex Marriage

In an uproar over federal court rulings striking down bans on same-sex marriage, Oklahoma lawmakers in the state's House Judiciary Committee voted to release two pieces of legislation that would make it virtually impossible for same-sex couples in the Sooner State to get married. The two bills would have the state discontinue issuing all marriage licenses and also forbid all local and state employees from complying with any federal court's order in favor of same-sex marriage. Tulsa World reports:

KernOne of the bills’ authors, Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said forcing states to acknowledge marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. Kern quoted the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” and said marriages of other than one man and one woman violate both.

Her bill, House Bill 1599, would require the immediate dismissal and forfeiture of pension of any state or local government employee who recognizes, grants or enforces a “same-sex marriage license.”

The “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act,” as HB 1599 is styled, also bars the use of public funds for “enforcing any court order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license,” and orders the immediate removal from office of any judge who violates the provisions of the bill.

It also orders state courts to “immediately dismiss” any challenge to the law and assess costs against the plaintiffs.

Finally, it says the act shall remain in effect despite “any contrary federal court ruling.”

The bill passed 5-3 along party lines, with one Republican member, Terry O’Donnell of Catoosa, not voting.

The second bill, HB 1125, would redefine how the state recognizes marriages and who would be allowed to officially recognize them:

Oklahoma-printable-flagIt would do away with marriage licenses, and instead depend on those conducting marriages to submit marriage certificates. Alternately, couples could file affidavits of common-law marriage.

The new language allows judges to perform marriages, as well as clergy or “ecclesiastical dignitaries.”

Russ said he proposed the bill to protect court clerks and other government employees who did not want to be involved in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson suggested that these anti-gay bills are a distraction from real woes facing Oklahoma:

"In the same week that we find out that the State of Oklahoma is facing a budget deficit of over $600 million, our lawmakers are wasting time - and taxpayer money - pushing a vindictive agenda against LGBT Oklahomans. The battle for the freedom to marry was long and hard-fought, but it is over, it is decided, and it is high time we addressed the real crisis facing our state. Legislators on both sides of this issue acknowledged at the committee hearing, that these pieces of legislation do not pass constitutional muster. And will trigger costly litigation that Oklahoma cannot afford and will lose. This is a futile effort to hurt Oklahomans and it is time we called this what it is - a mean-spirited distraction from the real problems facing our state."

Looks like Mike Huckabee isn't the only one who doesn't understand the concept of judicial supremacy. Maybe Huckabee and Oklahoma lawmakers should listen to this constitutional law professor explain how it works.


Chilean Government Will Not Defend Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The Chilean government has announced it will not defend its ban on same-sex marriage following a lawsuit brought against the state by marriage equality advocates and presented to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, The Washington Blade reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb07e4a0d6970d-150wi (2)Members of President Michelle Bachelet’s administration on Tuesday met with representatives of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, an LGBT advocacy group, in Santiago, the Chilean capital, to finalize “an amicable settlement” in the case filed in 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the South American country.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a press release it posted to its website said the government’s decision to end opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights case is part of a broader agreement that includes the introduction of a same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress.

“We left the meeting very satisfied,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation.“We appreciate the government’s good disposition towards our proposals and principles, which stress that marriage equality is a human rights issue.” 

Last month, Chile's Senate passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples in Chile to enter into same-sex unions. President Bachelet has said she will sign that bill. Still, advocates for full marriage equality vow to continue their fight despite this new legislation:

It remains unclear when the Bachelet administration and the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation will formally introduce the same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress.

[Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights case] told the Blade the lawsuit before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will move forward in spite of the Chilean government’s new position.

“We’re going to continue the fight,” he said. “We are not going to drop the case until marriage is enacted in Chile.”


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