Lambda Legal Hub




Three New Lawsuits Seek the Freedom to Marry in Arizona and Indiana

Macpherson_stolen
Rob MacPherson and Steven Stolen, plaintiffs in the ACLU Indiana suit.

Yesterday we reported that the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Florida demanding recognition of gay marriages from out-of-state.

Also filed yesterday were two others, in Arizona and Indiana.

ArizonaflagFreedom To Marry has details, on Arizona:

Lambda Legal filed this federal lawsuit - Majors v. Roche - in Arizona on behalf of seven same-sex couples - and the surviving spouses of two other same-sex couples - seeking the freedom to marry or respect for legal marriage licenses received in other states.

"Every day that same-sex couples in Arizona are denied marriage, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect," Lambda Legal Senior Council Jennifer Pizer explained.

The plaintiffs include married same-sex couples, couples who want to marry in Arizona, and individuals whose same-sex spouses have passed away without Arizona ever respecting their status as a married couple. The lead plaintiffs are Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey (pictured), who are both in their 70s and have been together for more than 55 years.

IndianaAnd Indiana:

Lambda Legal filed this federal lawsuit - Baskin v. Bogan -on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Indiana.

The plaintiffs include: Rae Baskin and Esther Fuller, who have been together for 24 years; Bonne Everly and Linda Judkins, together for over 13 years; and Dawn Lynn Carver and Pamela Eanes, together for 17 years. All of the couples are unmarried.

The named plaintiff, Rae Baskin, explained, "We just want what everyone else has in Indiana – a real, honest and legal marriage. We are a family. Esther loves me unconditionally and I can’t imagine life without her.”

And today comes news that the ACLU has filed ANOTHER, separate lawsuit in Indiana:

The American Civil Liberties Union, The ACLU of Indiana, along with attorney Sean Lemieux of the Lemieux Law Office in Indianapolis, have filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of 15 plaintiffs seeking the freedom marry in Indiana.

The suit seeks to stop the state from enforcing the current discriminatory law, to require the state to recognize marriages that have taken place outside of Indiana and to allow same-sex couples to wed in Indiana.

These lawsuits around the country are proliferating so quickly it is becoming increasingly challenging to keep track of them all. But we'll do our best!


Lambda Legal and ACLU Seek to Intervene in Boies/Olson Virginia Marriage Case

Virginia

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a motion earlier this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to intervene on behalf of all Virginia's same-sex couples and their families in Bostic v. Rainey.

BosticAs you may know, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and the ACLU and Lambda Legal have been leading separate cases challenging Virginia's gay marriage ban. AFER's case has already had a hearing and in mid-February, Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down Virginia's gay marriage ban based on their arguments.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals now has the case.

Lambda and the ACLU want in on this now, and issued a press release announcing the motion:

"We represent a class of all same sex couples in Virginia for whom the denial of marriage inflicts a variety of harms, and they deserve to be heard," said Greg Nevins, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "The Bostic appeal could decide the fate of not only both couples involved, but also the entire class of over 14,000 same-sex couples in Virginia who we represent."

The Harris case is awaiting decision from the court. Once that decision is issued, it will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit. In the meantime, allowing the Harris class action to intervene in the Bostic case now will allow the two cases to be consolidated on appeal without delaying or disrupting either case.

"From the beginning, both of these cases have proceeded on parallel tracks, and for the good of all couples in the state, we hope it will remain that way," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "This motion just ensures that all affected couples have their day in court."

The Bostic v. Rainey case is very well positioned to be the next marriage case heard before the Supreme Court and any groups who are there will get the benefit of a national spotlight and credit for its ultimate victory.

The Washington Blade notes that plaintiffs in Bostic aren't happy about the motion:

Matthew D. McGill, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Bostic case, questioned why the two groups petitioned the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to join the Bostic case.

“The addition of new parties to the case at this late stage risks delaying the proceedings, and there is not a moment to lose when gay and lesbian couples and families across Virginia – and other states in the Fourth Circuit – are experiencing real harm,” said McGill. “We hope the Harris plaintiffs and their lawyers will continue to support our shared goal of marriage equality by filing an amicus brief alongside us.”

A source involved in the legal process who asked to remain anonymous told the Blade there are “grave and serious consequences for an unwarranted ACLU intervention.” These could include the possibility that other groups from West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina that fall under the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction could seek to join the case if allowed.

“If intervention were granted, it could adversely slow down the current appeals process – and time is critical when it comes to attaining marriage equality for all Virginians,” said the source. “There is not a day to lose. Groups like the ACLU can be supportive by simply filing amicus briefs.”

Stay tuned.


Court Grants Expedited Hearing, Allows Withdrawal of State's Defense in Challenge to Nevada Gay Marriage Ban

A federal appeals court has granted the Nevada Governor and Attorney General's request to withdraw a brief defending the state's ban on gay marriage and granted an expedited hearing in the case, Lambda Legal reports:

SandovalThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today granted Lambda Legal's request to expedite the hearing of Sevcik v. Sandoval, its lawsuit challenging Nevada's discriminatory marriage ban. The decision comes just two days after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval sought leave to withdraw his brief defending the ban. The Ninth Circuit also granted Gov. Sandoval's request to withdraw his brief.

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Tara Borelli said:

The fact that the government defendants no longer are defending Nevada's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage makes any delay in these loving and committed couples securing the relief they seek particularly intolerable. The wheels of justice are now on a much faster track.

Gov. Sandoval's request and the earlier decision by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover to withdraw his brief were motivated by the Ninth Circuit's recent ruling in SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories that discriminatory classifications based upon sexual orientation must receive heightened scrutiny and should be presumed unconstitutional. The heightened scrutiny standard is much tougher to meet and rendered the state of Nevada's arguments in its original brief defending the marriage ban "no longer tenable in the Ninth Circuit," as Nevada's Attorney General conceded in a statement released last week. The withdrawal of the two government defendants leaves only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which the U.S. District Court had allowed to intervene, defending the marriage ban.


Judge: Portion of Challenge to West Virginia Ban on Gay Marriage Can Proceed

A federal judge has ruled that a challenge to West Virginia's ban on gay marriage can proceed, but that part of the lawsuit, which sought the recognition of gay marriages from other states, cannot go forward without additional plaintiffs, the Charleston Gazette reports:

WvNone of the couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit has an out-of-state marriage license, so they don't have legal standing to challenge the fact that West Virginia won't recognize them, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers said in his order Wednesday.

Chambers gave the plaintiffs -- three same-sex couples from West Virginia -- until Feb. 12 to amend their complaint.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit on Octover 1 on behalf of three gay couples seeking the right to marry. The lawyers are not sure if they will bring additional plaintiffs:

"We're probably not inclined to add additional plaintiffs, but we're evaluating it. We feel like we've got the substance of the way those families are harmed already in front of the court," Loewy said. "The important thing this case really presents is an opportunity to have the court understand how not being able to be recognized as a married couple harms West Virginia families. Our existing plaintiffs tell that story beautifully."


West Virginia Attorney General Files Motion to Defend State's Gay Marriage Ban in Court

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed a motion to intervene and defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a lawsuit challenging it, the AP reports:

MorriseyNew York-based gay rights group Lambda Legal contends West Virginia’s Defense of Marriage Act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Huntington in October on behalf of three same-sex couples and the child of one couple...

...Morrisey’s filing notes that state agencies enforce or otherwise execute the laws in question.

...Lambda Legal argues West Virginia’s ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children. In addition to its own ban, the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages that occurred in other states. The organization says its clients are denied the legal sanction, societal respect, financial protections and other support that marriage gives to heterosexual couples.

The plaintiffs are partners Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins, and Justin Murdock and Will Glavaris, all of Huntington, and Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton, of St. Albans, and their son, Drew.


Gay California Teacher Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against School District

Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit against Hesperia Unified School District in San Bernardino County, California, on behalf of a lesbian teacher, Julia Frost, who was formerly employed at Sultana High School, alleging that she was fired for being gay. The AP reports the lawsuit, filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court on Tuesday, insists Frost was a victim of "unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of her sexual orientation":

Lambda-Frost--1The suit alleges that administrators created a hostile environment for Frost and gay students, singling them out for harassment, and investigated Frost for "teaching homosexuality." The suit said that despite the harassment, Frost still received an outstanding performance review.

The district said in a statement Frost was "legitimately and appropriately dismissed" and is taking legal action for personal gain.

Frost was a co-sponsor with another teacher who is not gay of the Gay/Straight Alliance, which has chapters in schools across the country. The lawsuit alleges that the club's activities and announcements were censored and specifically omitted from a listing of school organizations in a student handbook.

Frost, who had been an English teacher at Sultana High from August 2011 until May 2013, paints a picture of a strongly anti-gay school and staff. Administrators allegedly threatened to reveal students' sexual orientation to their parents after complaining of bullying. Frost says her teaching contract wasn't renewed after she helped a student print and fill out a complaint form against a teacher "who told a student to 'take the gay headband off' in class and commented 'that's so gay' in a disparaging manner."

(Photo via FrontiersLA)


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