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North Carolina Magistrate Resigns Over Gay Marriage: VIDEO

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A North Carolina magistrate yesterday took the decision to resign rather than perform same-sex marriages, reports WITN.

A memo to state magistrates on Wednesday said officials would be violating their oaths of office if they refuse to marry gay or lesbian couples.

Rockingham County Magistrate John Kallam Jr. said performing same-sex marriages would violate his religious beliefs and "would desecrate a holy Institution established by God Himself."

Kallam Jr. sent a letter to Chief District Court Judge Fred Wilkins saying when he took his oath of office, he didn't take it with the understanding that he would be required to marry gay couples.

On Monday, a magistrate in Pasquotank County refused to marry two men, citing religious objections.

Watch a report, AFTER THE JUMP...

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NYC Councilman Corey Johnson Introduces Groundbreaking Transgender Birth Certificate Legislation

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A bill introduced yesterday by New York City councilman and LGBT rights activist Corey Johnson aims to change the law under which transgender people wishing to change sex on their birth certificate must prove that they have had “corrective surgery,” reports Capital New York.

The Department of Health will propose new regulations mirroring Johnson's legislation.

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday that will make it easier for transgender Californians to obtain a birth certificate with sex and name alterations

New York City law currently requires anyone wishing to change their birth certificate to undergo surgery. However, under the proposed change, transgender people would only be required to provide a signed form from a physician, a doctoral level psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, licensed master social worker, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, marriage family therapist, mental health counsellor or a midwife.

According to advocates, although New York City in 1971 became the first municipality to permit changes to a birth certificate for transgender people, the policy has not been updated and now stands as too restrictive.

Johnson - a former political editor for Towleroad - said that the change is a human rights issue and is necessary “because transgender people currently do not have accurate documents to be able to access basic things like a driver's license that matches who they are.”

Michael Silverman, Executive Director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said:

“We applaud both of these efforts to help transgender people born in New York City update their birth certificates to match who they truly are. These proposed policy changes reflect modern medical standards for transgender health care.

"A birth certificate is a fundamental form of identification. Yet New York City’s existing policy makes it all but impossible for transgender people to get birth certificates that reflect their true identities. It requires surgical procedures that most transgender people have not undergone, either because of discriminatory health insurance exclusions that make such procedures unaffordable, or because such procedures are medically inappropriate for some people.”


Nationwide Marriage Equality: Why We Might Not Even Need the Supreme Court

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Back in June, I argued that there may never be a need for the Supreme Court to take a marriage equality case.

We have marriage rights in Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Ninth Circuit just declared the bans on marriage equality in Idaho and Nevada unconstitutional. Both states will have to comply in short order. Since there is no reason to stay those cases given the Supreme Court's recent denials of review, we will soon have marriage equality in at least 32 states! 

The Supreme Court has denied review in cases out of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. That leaves marriage equality lawsuits  on appeal at the Fifth (the Texas case) and Sixth (the Michigan case). Marriage equality is almost a sure bet in, at least, the entire Ninth Circuit now.

At some point, the conventional wisdom says, all these cases will lead back to the Supreme Court.

Not necessarily. Looking at the map and our string of marriage equality victories, I wonder whether we will need the Supreme Court at all. A nationwide freedom to marry could be a fait accompli without five justices of the Supreme Court.

I make the argument AFTER THE JUMP...

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Colbert Welcomes His 'Government-Mandated Life Partner' Since Gay Marriage is Inevitable: VIDEO

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After hearing Jeffrey Toobin tell Wolf Blitzer that it's "inevitable the rest of the country will follow" the states that have adopted gay marriage, Stephen Colbert thanked his wife Lorraine "for 25 good years" and welcomed his new husband and welcomed his new "government-mandated life partner Roger Cornsworth."

Still, Stephen is "pumped to the gavels" for the start of the Supreme Court session and takes a look at the rise in influence of "friend of the court", or amicus briefs, which were cited by SCOTUS 124 times from 2008 to 2013.

"As a wise man once said, there's nothing wrong with quoting someone who doesn't know what they're talking about."

Colbert welcomes Professor Allison Orr Larsen to examine whether this phenomenon is a good or a bad thing.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Why Each SCOTUS Justice Might Be Avoiding the Marriage Equality Question Right Now

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The media have been universally shocked at the Supreme Court's announcement today. Now that we have had time to read several media accounts (including our own Towleroad coverage) we should take a step back and analyze what this means from a legal, political, and practical perspective. I also would like to shed a little more light on how this may have happened and what conclusions, if any, we can draw from it.

ScotusLet's be clear on what did not happen. The Supreme Court did not make a substantive ruling on the constitutionality of banning gays from marrying. Nor did the Court make any ruling on the justice of marriage equality. The constitutional question lives on for another day.

The Court's denial of the petitions also has no explicit legal effect on anything other than those particular 7 cases for which it denied review and on the circuit court decisions below. It has, in the legal jargon, no precedential value: it does not compel any other court to make a certain decision in a certain way. 

But it does represent the federal courts' final word on these cases. There are no more avenues of appeal for the anti-equality forces in Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia, as well as in the other 11 remaining states covered by the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits that do not already have marriage equality. That means that loving, committed gay couples can start marrying in those states very soon. Thanks to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, "soon" is now. Other states, especially those run by conservative, anti-gay governors, may try to defy the inevitable for as long as they can. But sooner rather than later, clerks from South Carolina to Wisconsin will be issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. They will be strengthening the institution of marriage in their states and throughout the country.

Many are wondering how this could have happened. Some commentators expected (more likely, hoped) that the Court would take at least one of these cases. Some expected the Court to do nothing. Back in June, I argued that there may never be a need for the Supreme Court to take a marriage equality case. I was alone in arguing that then, and there are now several commentators coming around to realize that possibility. The denials today only reinforce my point.

Follow me for one possible explanation for how and why this happened.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Why Each SCOTUS Justice Might Be Avoiding the Marriage Equality Question Right Now" »


Supreme Court Denial Opens Door to Marriage Equality in 11 More States: An Analysis

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Today we received word that the Supreme Court denied review of all seven marriage equality that were pending before it. These cases came out of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. This means that the Supreme Court has made its move, the appellate courts' pro-equality decisions will stand, the stays will be lifted (shortly), and marriages can begin shortly thereafter. 

Consider the magnitude of this win.

The Fourth Circuit includes Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Seventh Circuit includes Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Tenth Circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Those jurisdictions cover nearly 74 million people. Taking away those states that already have marriage equality--Maryland, Illinois, and New Mexico--and we will soon have more than 52 million more Americans living in marriage equality states.

It also will ultimately bring 11 more states to the marriage equality fold. That will likely happen in two stages. First, the five states that were defendants in the cases the Supreme Court just denied will almost immediately have to allow gay couples to marry. Then, because the appellate court decisions cover the other states, as well, all the remaining the states will have to do the same in short order. This brings our marriage equality tally to 30 states plus the District of Columbia. Three-fifths of the states will now be marriage equality states just like that!

In addition to the very real, practical effect of allowing tens of thousands of gay couples to marry, the surprising denial may mean several other things:

First, the Supreme Court is making a strong, though of course not definitive statement, about where it is heading. To deny all seven cases and let the pro-equality appellate court decisions stand speaks to the court's willingness to see marriage equality come to more states. If a majority was opposed to that, at least four justices would have voted to take the case to try to prevent that from happening.

GinsburgSecond, taking today's actions together with Justice Ginsburg's recent statements that the Supreme Court will take a marriage equality case "soon" and to look to the Sixth Circuit, it seems as if the Court is respecting the traditional canon of not taking a case before it has to. We have, to date, run the table on marriage equality in the federal appellate courts, so there is no circuit split (an old Eighth Circuit case from before Windsor does not count). 

Third, if I wanted to be a little cheeky, I would say the Court is almost daring the conservatives on the Sixth Circuit to uphold the ban on gays marrying. "We dare you to send us a bigoted decision saying gays cannot marry. We just allowed 11 more states to let gays marry. Marriage equality is almost literally surrounding the Sixth Circuit. We dare you! Watch how fast we reject you."

So, what happens now?

Because the Supreme Court has denied review in all marriage equality cases, those cases are over. The appellate court decisions, which upheld district court decisions holding marriage discrimination provisions unconstitutional, stand. Since the cases are over and since the Supreme Court's denial of review is final word on the matter, the stays, whether issued by appellate courts or district courts, will end shortly. Within a few days, gay couples should be allowed to marry in Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma. For marriage equality to come to the other states under the jurisdiction of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, an additional step may be needed. Attorneys general or governors in those states could immediately declare that per the Supreme Court's denial and the impending order from the appellate courts, those states' bans are null and void, and that clerks should start issuing marriage licenses as soon as possible. Normally, courts will give states a short leeway time to make the necessary administrative changes to comply. 

Sure, a governor or attorney general could try to nullify the courts' orders, standing in the proverbial schoolhouse door like an anti-gay version of the racist Governor George Wallace. But if a gay couple in, say, South Carolina, goes to a clerk's office and seeks a marriage license in accordance with all other South Carolina marriage law requirements, any clerk's refusal to issue a license on the ground that the individuals are gay would be subject to a lawsuit that would immediately be decided in the couple's favor.

Expect some rhetorical protests, especially from the more recalcitrant and conservative Republican governors, but do not expect their defiant behavior to last very long.

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Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out my website at www.ariewaldman.com.

Ari Ezra Waldman is a professor of law and the Director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and is concurrently pursuing his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ari writes weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.


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