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Marriage Equality Cases from Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi Go Before 5th Circuit Today

In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court considering the four marriage cases we lost at the Sixth Circuit, there is a lot more going on in marriage equality news to follow today.

HigginbothamIn New Orleans, the 5th Circuit federal appellate court will hear oral arguments in the Louisiana marriage case we lost at the district court level in September (remember Judge Martin Feldman's strange, hateful opinion?) beginning at 9 am. The 5th Circuit will also hear oral arguments in the Texas marriage case we won at the district court level in February. The 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the Mississippi marriage case we won in November at the District Court level.

Oral arguments in each of those hearings will last for 30 minutes, and the Court will hear from DOMA lawyer Robbie Kaplan in the Mississippi case.

Earlier this week we took a look at the three judge panel - James E. Graves Jr., Patrick E. Higginbotham (pictured) and Jerry E. Smith - who would be hearing the cases today. Read up on it here.

Stay tuned...


Gay Couple Fighting for Marriage in Mississippi Speaks Up Ahead of Crucial Hearing: VIDEO

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This Friday, January 9, the 5th Circuit court in New Orleans will hear oral arguments in the appeal of the Mississippi ruling that struck down the gay marriage ban in that state on November 25.

The ruling was stayed pending appeal but goes before the federal appellate court this week along with cases from Texas and Louisiana.

USA Today did a lovely interview with plaintiffs Becky Bickett and Andrea Sanders in the couple's home in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Bickett and Sanders applied for and were denied a marriage license from the state last March.

The paper reports:

Bickett and Sanders have it harder because of their economic circumstances. They were literally thrown together after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their parents' Gulf Coast homes in Bay St. Louis in 2005. Their first home together was a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer.

Now the couple owns a single-wide trailer on three acres north of the coast, but they are struggling financially. Bickett was laid off from her job as a geospatial analyst and is looking for full-time work. Sanders, with a degree in family relations and human development, is staying home with the toddlers.

They dream of having a big family, but without legalized gay marriage, Sanders isn't considered to be Owen's and Adrian's mom. They cannot adopt or even be foster parents as a couple.

Watch the wonderful interview, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay Couple Fighting for Marriage in Mississippi Speaks Up Ahead of Crucial Hearing: VIDEO" »


Handicapping The 5th Circuit: Are Gay Marriage Opponents About To Hit Rock Higginbotham?

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A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Friday, Jan. 9 in same-sex marriage cases from three states — Lousiana, Mississippi and Texas

Earlier this week, the 5th Circuit revealed judges for the panel — James E. Graves Jr., Patrick E. Higginbotham (above) and Jerry E. Smith.

Higginbotham and Smith are Reagan appointees, while Graves is an Obama appointee. The 2-1 split reflects the overall makeup of the 5th Circuit, which has 10 Republican appointees and five Democratic appointees. 

Although the 5th Circuit is considered to be among the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country, there is hope for a favorable ruling. From ThinkProgress:  

Supporters of equal rights for gay couples can almost certainly give up on Judge Smith. Smith once described himself, albeit somewhat jokingly, as a former “right-wing activist.” He also once described feminists as a “gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects.” ...

Judge Graves, meanwhile, is a much newer addition to the federal bench, so his views are less defined. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of federal judges to consider marriage equality cases since the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 have sided with gay rights. If would be surprising if an Obama-appointed member of a federal appeals court joined the few outliers who broke with this consensus.

That leaves Judge Higginbotham. ... 

The Dallas Morning News has more on Higgonbotham, who is now widely expected to provide the swing vote: 

Once considered solidly conservative, Higginbotham has irritated some conservatives with his rulings critical of Texas judges’ handling of death-penalty cases and a recent decision in which he wrote an opinion upholding the University of Texas’ race-conscious admission policy.

Last summer, Higginbotham told The Texas Lawbook’s Mark Curriden that the New Orleans court has shifted considerably to the conservative side during his 32 years as a member.

“When I joined the 5th Circuit, I may have been the court’s most conservative judge,” he said. “Now, I’m probably left of center, even though I don’t think I’ve changed my views at all.”

On the same day the 5th Circuit hears oral arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court will meet to decide whether to hear marriage cases from five states, possibly paving the way for a ruling that would effectively render the 5th Circuit's decision moot.  

But even assuming the high court decides to hear at least one of the cases, the 5th Circuit panel has a chance to either harden the existing circuit court split or provide a huge momentum boost for marriage equality that would also be a devastating blow to gay-rights opponents. 


Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes 'Substantial' Contribution To HRC Campaign Targeting His Home State Of Alabama

Six weeks after coming out publicly, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a "substantial" contribution to a campaign aimed at bringing LGBT equality to his home state of Alabama. 

Cook.TimThe Human Rights Campaign announced Cook's contribution Thursday to its Project One America, an $8.5 million, three-year effort targeting Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Cook grew up in South Alabama and attended Auburn University. 

The Associated Press reports: 

The amount of Cook's contribution to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign wasn't disclosed, but the advocacy organization called it "substantial." ... 

The campaign includes advertising on TV and elsewhere, direct-mail fliers and staff members hired in each state.

"We hope Tim Cook's substantial personal investment inspires others to support this vital and historic project," Jason Rahlan, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said in an email.

President Chad Griffin wrote on HRC's blog

When Tim first learned about HRC's Project One America – our bold, comprehensive campaign to dramatically advance equality for LGBT Americans in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi – he said, “I'm in.” Thanks to his generous personal financial investment in the program, together we will move the needle forward at the local and state level, tearing down misperceptions and providing concrete protections for those who need it most.

Shortly before coming out, Cook delivered a speech in Montgomery in which he said Alabama was moving "too slow on equality for the LGBT community." The state's only openly gay lawmaker recently announced she plans to name a nondiscrimination bill after Cook in the upcoming legislative session. 

Cook, who heads the world's largest corporation, is the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

RedIn related news, Cook announced in an email to employees that Apple's Product (RED) holiday campaign raised over $20 million for AIDS research, Business Insider reports: 

"I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million. The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support," Cook wrote. 

Watch a video for HRC's Project America campaign in Alabama, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes 'Substantial' Contribution To HRC Campaign Targeting His Home State Of Alabama" »


Mississippi Pastor Dresses His Horse In A Wedding Gown To Protest Gay Marriage Ruling: VIDEO

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The above image from WAPT-TV shows the Rev. Edward James outside the federal courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on Friday, with his horse, Charlotte, in a wedding dress. 

James, of Chapel M.B. Church, was protesting a recent ruling from a Mississippi federal judge striking down the state's bans on same-sex marriage, a decision James hopes the judge will reconsider based on his "ridiculous" protest. 

Horse-bride"Although (the protest) is ridiculous, so is the same-sex marriage status," James told The Clarion Ledger. "That's the point I'm trying to convey to Mississippians today, and I'm hoping that (U.S. District Court) Judge (Carlton) Reeves will reconsider his ruling and that Mississippi will stay a state that will only recognize marriage between a man and a woman."

James' signs read:

"THE NEXT UNNATURAL LAW: DO YOU TAKE THIS HORSE TO BE YOUR UNNATURAL WEDDED SPOUSE TO HAVE AND TO HOLD? THIS MIGHT EVEN BE POSSIBLE IF THE BAND (sic) ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE IS LIFTED. 'WHERE TO DO WE DRAW THE LINE?'

"MARRIAGE IS ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN ANYTHING ELSE IS A PERVERSION."  

In a post mocking James, the Human Rights Campaign notes that he's hardly the first opponent of same-sex marriage to suggest that gay nuptials will lead to man-horse unions: 

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said, “The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable. Matter of time,”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) once asked, “Or why not, you know, somebody has a love for an animal or-? There is no clear place to draw a line once you eliminate the traditional marriage.”

Rick Santorum told the Associated Press, “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever, to my knowledge, included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

And Virginia’s Republican nominee for Lt. Governor E.W. Jackson warned the crowd during a sermon that if they don’t stop “Adam and Steve” it is going to “soon be Adam and a bull.”

I'd hate to lump James in the same category with those folks — he seems far more creative, and I commend him for giving us a break from those tired "death to gays" sermons. I'm also pretty sure James is just trying to get some publicity for his church, whose Facebook page hasn't been updated in over three years.

But James' protest does make you wonder whether the good pastor actually read Judge Reeves' 72-page decision. The decision, which has been stayed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, compared the same-sex marriage bans to prohibitions on interracial marriage and discussed in detail how gays were targeted along with African-Americans by groups like the Klu Klux Klan. 

Oh well, at least Charlotte got some fresh grass. 

Watch a video report from The Clarion Ledger, AFTER THE JUMP ...(warning: autoplay)

Continue reading "Mississippi Pastor Dresses His Horse In A Wedding Gown To Protest Gay Marriage Ruling: VIDEO" »


Fifth Circuit Extends Stay on Mississippi Gay Marriage Ruling Pending Appeal

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood's request for a stay on federal judge Kristine Baker's ruling last month striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The Fifth Circuit also agreed to expedite the process for considering the case but will not consolidate it with the cases challenging gay marriage bans in Texas and Louisiana. Oral arguments in those two cases are set for the week of January 5.  The state's briefs in the Mississippi case are due December 19. 

Read the stay below via Equality Case Files:


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