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Detroit Minister Sues Michigan For The Right To Conduct Same-Sex and Polygamous Marriages

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 2.36.41 PMA bold Detroit minister filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan, alleging state law violates his right to religious freedom by barring him from conducting same-sex and polygamous marriages reports The Detroit NewsRev. Neil Patrick Carrick filed the lawsuit on Monday against Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette, citing that the state's ban on such unions runs counter to the First Amendment and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Carrick issued a stoic statement on the matter Tuesday.

Said Carrick:

"Churches should have the right to marry who they want to marry. I've been told by others that 'we would love to marry (gays and lesbians) but we can't because we would be breaking the law.'

"The state of Michigan does not have the right to tell us what to do in our church."

In the lawsuit, Carrick claims the state engages in "the disparate treatment" of gays, lesbians and what he calls "plural relationships." Carrick, a former pastor with the United Church of Christ, says he turned down requests from same-sex to marry because he would be breaking state law. Michigan law states that someone who knowingly performs a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples is a punishable crime and carries a fine of up to $500. "Michigan officials create discrimination and potentially prosecution of private conduct between consenting adults without requiring law enforcement officials to show harm to society or those involved," Carrick said.

Gina Calcagno, the campaign manager for Michigan for Marriage, an advocacy group that wholeheartedly supports same-sex marriage, said many religious are eager to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. "They are just waiting for the state to catch up," said Calcagno. The United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit last April against the state of North Carolina arguing that the state's marriage law violates the First Amendment rights of clergy to "free exercise of religion." A federal judge struck down the North Carolina law in October.

A spokesman for the Michigan Attorney General's Office declined to comment about the lawsuit Tuesday. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review a case challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban. 


What Happens If We Lose the Supreme Court Gay Marriage Cases?

USSCOTUS

The Supreme Court's decision earlier today to hear the four gay marriage cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee sets the stage for the the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans to be decided once and for all. 

With the high court's previous DOMA ruling in place and its refusal to stay lower court rulings bringing marriage equality to a number of states, it can be tempting to think nationwide marriage equality will be a sure bet this year.  

For precautions sake though, Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson has spelled out what will happen should SCOTUS go the other way:

DavidsonIf the Supreme Court were to rule in the cases in which it today granted review that the U.S. Constitution does not protect same-sex couple's right to marry and does not require states to respect marriages same-sex couples lawfully have entered in other jurisdictions, a number of issues would arise.

With respect to same-sex couples who already have married as a result of court rulings, Lambda Legal strongly believes -- as a federal district court in Michigan ruled just yesterday with respect to marriages entered in that state before the 6th Circuit's adverse ruling -- that those marriages will remain valid and will need to continue to be respected by the states in which those marriages were entered. Nonetheless, the validity of those couples' marriages may be challenged and those couples may want to take additional steps (such as executing wills, durable health care powers of attorney, and securing second parent adoptions) to provide them and their families extra peace of mind and security.

With respect to whether same-sex couples would be able to marry and would have their marriages respected in other states, that would vary from state to state. States in which marriage equality was achieved by a ruling under the state's constitution, by legislative reform, or at the ballot box, would be unaffected. Unmarried same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee (the states whose marriage laws the Supreme Court today agreed to review) would be forced to seek reform through the political process. States in which a final judgment has been obtained in federal court would be required to continue to allow same-sex couples to marry and to respect out-of-state marriages entered by same-sex couples unless and until someone with standing makes a motion to reopen the judgment and that motion is granted (unless stays are properly obtained before then). In some states, there may be no one with standing interested in seeking to set aside the existing judgment. Same-sex couples in states in which a judgment is on appeal or can still be appealed whose judgments have not been stayed should be able to continue to marry and to have their out-of-state marriages honored by the state until the existing judgment is stayed or reversed.

There's no question that it would be a mess. This is one additional reason why the Supreme Court should reverse the 6th Circuit's aberrant decision and hold that same-sex couples, like all other couples, share the fundamental right to marry and that it violates federal guarantees of equality and liberty to refuse to allow them to marry or to deny recognition to the marriages they lawfully have entered in other states.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman's analysis of today's events HERE


Federal Court Rules Michigan Must Recognize 300+ Gay Marriage Licenses Issued in March

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled today that Michigan must recognize more than 300 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples last March. Goldsmith stayed his ruling for 21 days.

Freedom to Marry reports: Snyder

Today's ruling was in the case Caspar v. Snyder, which was filed on April 14, 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan on behalf of eight same-sex couples who received marriage licenses on the first day of the freedom to marry in Michigan. More than 300 couples received marriage licenses on March 22, after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The ruling was stayed later that afternoon, and although the federal government said that it would respect the Michigan marriage licenses for all purposes, Governor Rick Snyder (pictured) said that the state would deny respect to the licenses as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals considered arguments in the original federal lawsuit.

Judge Goldsmith wrote:

The alleged harm of impaired human dignity and denial of at least some tangible benefits have already come about, thereby establishing that the factual record is sufficiently developed, such that there is no need to await future events for adjudication of the issues in this action. And delaying judicial resolution of these issues would serve no useful purpose. To the contrary, such delay would compound the harms these Plaintiffs suffer each day that their marital status remains unrecognized.

Judge Goldsmith's ruling, which is stayed for 21 days, means that all of the same-sex couples who were married on March 22 before the ruling was stayed will soon be respected by the state.

Ruling, via Equality Case Files, below:

4:14-cv-11499 #46 by Equality Case Files


Michigan Court Denies Former Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell's Attempt to Claim Unemployment

Michigan

Andrew Shirvell, the ousted Michigan assistant attorney general, has been denied access to unemployment benefits following a ruling by the Michigan appeals court. In 2010 the Michigan attorney general’s office fired Shirvell for waging a homophobic personal campaign against Chris Armstrong, a gay college student at the University of Michigan. In addition to demonstrating on campus, Shirvell ran a blog, the Chris Armstrong Watch, where he accused Armstrong of being a Nazi as well as a recruiter for 'the cult that is homosexuality.’

Shirvell claimed that because his harassment of Armstrong took place outside of the office, his actions were protected by the First Amendment. In a 3-0 decision, however, judges Stephen Borrello, Christopher Murray and Peter O'Connell found that the attorney general’s office was justified in its decision citing that Shirvell’s actions had a markedly adverse impact on the office’s credibility.

"The department, as the chief law enforcement agency in the state, represents all of the citizens of Michigan irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or creed,” the court said in its ruling. “Shirvell's conduct reasonably could have created the impression that neither he nor the department enforced the law in a fair, even-handed manner without bias.”

Shirvell has expressed his intentions of appealing the court’s decision.

Listen to Andrew Shirvell attempt to justify his vicious online bullying AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Michigan Court Denies Former Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell's Attempt to Claim Unemployment" »


Supreme Court To Consider On Jan 9. Whether To Hear Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans

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In the wake of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision earlier this year to uphold bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, the United States Supreme Court has decided to consider hearing challenges to that ruling from marriage equality advocates during its closed doors conference on January 9th. At that same conference, the Court will also be considering a decision from a federal judge in Louisiana that let that state's ban on same-sex marriage stand. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports: 

“The Tanco [Tennessee case] petition will be considered at the Court’s January 9 conference, along with … petitions filed by the plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana,” National Center for Lesbian Rights spokesperson Erik Olvera told BuzzFeed News on Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs and marriage equality advocates alike hope the petitions will provide the Supreme Court with the chance to take a case to resolve the issue nationally with a ruling that would apply across the country.

Although the justices denied petitions filed earlier in the year from other states, all were in cases in which the lower court had struck down the bans — and before there was a “circuit split,” a disagreement among the federal appeals court on the issue. All five petitions before the court now come from decisions upholding the various states’ bans.

In November, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the four district courts to have heard the cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — sending the plaintiffs in the cases from all four states to the Supreme Court seeking an appeal. 

[…]

Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio officials agreed that the Supreme Court should take a case and resolve the issue nationally; only Tennessee officials opposed Supreme Court review.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Jeffrey Fisher, from Stanford Law School, joined the Kentucky lawyers, led by Daniel Canon, in Monday’s reply brief, arguing, “For petitioners here – and for lesbian and gay couples and families across both the Sixth Circuit and the country – the harm and confusion that the circuit split has caused calls out for immediate review.”

You can read the Kentucky plaintiffs' reply below:

14-575 Plaintiffs' Reply by Equality Case Files


Michigan's 'License to Discriminate' Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

BolgerLate Thursday evening Michigan’s House of Representatives decided to move forward with its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (House Bill 5958) following a Republican dominated 59-50 vote. Introduced by Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), House Bill 5958 would empower service providers to more effectively use their deeply held religious beliefs as a legal defense in lawsuits involving LGBT discrimination.

The bill has now been sent along for a vote on the Michigan Senate floor. Should the bill become law, the government will be required to provide "compelling justification" as to why one party’s religious beliefs should give way to another’s way of life.

Michigan Democrats have expressed their concerns that the bill will give those with conservative beliefs a free pass to openly discriminate against LGBT individuals. 

Bolger refutes claims that the law would negatively impact the LGBT community and points to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the predecessor to House Bill 5958. Passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the Supreme Court eventually concluded that the law did not affect state-level statutes.

While testifying in defense of the bill, Bolger cited a number of technical instances in which the bill would protect individuals such as giving families the right to refuse autopsy on religious grounds. 

The Michigan Senate is comprised of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats. 


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