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Marriage At the Supreme Court 2.0: The Cases

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

This article is one in a multipart series leading up to a future Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. The Court has granted review of four marriage cases from the Sixth Circuit and a decision may be handed down at the end of June. Between now and then, Towleroad will break down the cases step by step. Today's topic: The Cases.

Last time, we spoke about the importance of framing the case through the Questions Presented. I argued that despite some concern, the two questions posed in the Supreme Court's order do not indicate that the justices are looking for a way out. They are ready to rule. Before we discuss the substance on which the justices will rule, let's review the four cases that will decide the marriage equality question.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Marriage At the Supreme Court 2.0: The Cases" »


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


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

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Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


Cincinnati Councilman Gives Emotional Speech in Support of LGBT Youth After Leelah Alcorn's Suicide: WATCH

Seelbach

The tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn last week struck a nerve with Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach. As the city's first openly gay councilman, Seelbach saw Leelah's suicide as the wake up call society needed to better ensure that those who struggle with their sexuality or gender identity are loved and accepted.

Following a reading Leelah's suicide not to the council's chambers on Wednesday, Seelbach used his platform to directly address "every single lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, ally person young or old."

Alcorn1"It doesn't always get better. For many of us, it does. And it does with every single day that passes. But sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the very people you trust, who you should trust - your parents, your pastor - they fail you. And they continue to fail you. They make life seem like it gets worse with every day, not better. And when that happens and someone tells you or you hear in some polished media campaign "It gets better," it's so easy to think "Not for me." Because that's what your truth is - it's not better. And the truth is we as a society, as a community, as a "it takes a village" have failed you. We haven't spoken up enough, challenged the beliefs of people who tell you aren't exactly the person God made you to be. Because you are. What I know for sure is that with every day, it may not feel like it gets better, but I know that you can get through it. You can survive the rejection. You can survive the pain. You can survive the isolation. You can because you're exactly who you're supposed to be. You're the person God made you to be, and you have the strength to persevere. It will not be easy. It may not get better with every day, but you can do it – I know you can. If no one seems to have faith in you, I do...you are not alone."

Listen to Seelbach's full remarks, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Cincinnati Councilman Gives Emotional Speech in Support of LGBT Youth After Leelah Alcorn's Suicide: WATCH" »


As Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Is Laid To Rest, Her Death Begins To 'Mean Something' - VIDEO

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Transgender suicide victim Leelah Alcorn (below right) was laid to rest Friday morning in a private service, after her family moved the funeral in response to alleged threats, according to a report from NBC News

Tim Tripp, the family minister at Northeast Church of Christ in Cincinnati, told NBC News the funeral had been moved to a private location because "the times and dates had been publicized, and the family's received threats." Tripp wouldn't specify what threats surrounded the funeral, other than to say the family had heard there would be "disruptions." Mourners arriving at the church Friday found a sign on the door announcing the service's postponement. Jeff Hartmann, of Hodapp Funeral Home, said the private service was held there Friday morning. He said Alcorn's body was to be cremated.

AlcornMeanwhile, the LGBT community and its supporters honored Alcorn at candlelight vigils in Cleveland, Columbus (above) and other cities on Friday night. Additional vigils are planned outside Alcorn's former school today, and as far away as Orlando and London

A petition launched in the wake of Alcorn's suicide calling for a federal ban on transgender conversion therapy has garnered more than 240,000 signatures. Another petition calling for Alcorn's correct name to be placed on her headstone has garnered more than 70,000 signatures. 

As we reported, Leelah's mother, Carla Alcorn, told CNN she'd never heard her daughter's chosen name prior to her suicide. But that isn't surprising given that Leelah's parents likely would have used the name as another reason to punish their daughter, since they didn't support her gender identity due to their religious beliefs. 

WCPO-TV reported Thursday night that Leelah's father, Doug, sent the station an email in which he continued to misgender his daughter and use her birth name: 

WCPO has made several attempts to speak with her parents at their Kings Mills home. 

After an attempt Thursday, the girl’s father, Doug, sent WCPO an email with the subject line: “Joshua Alcorn and your visit this morning.”

Doug Alcorn's message reads in part:

“We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. ... I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

Needless to say, it's a little late for that, but actions speak louder than words, and Leelah's parents' actions as described in her Tumblr post were largely confirmed by her mother's statements to CNN.  

Not surprisingly, the original Tumblr post itself has been removed, but you can find an archive of it here, and the unprecedented national media coverage of Leelah's suicide continues, with some advocates calling her death the transgender community's "Matthew Shepard moment." 

Watch GLAAD spokesman Tiq Milan discuss the tragedy on MSNBC, as well as WCPO's report on Leelah's father's statement, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "As Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Is Laid To Rest, Her Death Begins To 'Mean Something' - VIDEO" »


Dan Savage: Prosecute Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn's Parents for Abuse

Alcorn

Yesterday we reported on the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life by walking in front of a truck near her home in Cincinnati on Sunday (full story here).

Alcorn's death, suggested to be an accident by her mother Carla Wood Alcorn on Facebook, was revealed to be a suicide after a note Leelah wrote appeared on a Tumblr account. The note also detailed the issues she faced due to her parents' intolerance.

Alcorn's parents, who had taken her to a Christian therapist because she sought to begin transitioning when she turned 16, removed her from high school and confiscated her laptop after she then came out to them as gay, cutting off her contact from the rest of the world.

The story is now getting national attention and friends are speaking out about Alcorn.

DavisChris Davis, a childhood friend of Alcorn's, discusses the teen's struggles with WCPO (referring to her with a male pronoun):

“One day he finally posted on Facebook, ‘Hey, I’m coming out. This is me. This is who I am. Everybody was like, 'Yeah man, this is great.' He came to school and everyone gave him massive support. Occasionally he’d tell me, ‘Oh, I feel like I’m something else or I’m someone else,’ and wouldn’t go too far with it. I feel like it was something that was really personal to him that maybe he didn’t tell anybody about because he was nervous about it.”

Watch the interview, AFTER THE JUMP...

Others are speaking out as well. Activist and anti-bullying advocate Dan Savage is calling for Alcorn's parents to be prosecuted for abuse:

Marriage Equality Ohio is holding a vigil for Alcorn on January 3 at Kings High School in Cincinnati.

Continue reading "Dan Savage: Prosecute Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn's Parents for Abuse" »


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