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SCOTUS To Consider Hearing Gay Marriage Cases From 5 States on Sept. 29

SUPREMEThe Supreme Court has announced it will consider seven petitions from five states--Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsinon--on whether those states' same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. The Court, currently on hiatus, will discuss the cases in a private meeting on September 29, its first conference of the year. Same-sex couples along with representatives of the states barring them from marrying have been petitioning the Court to review their cases and provide legal clarity on the question of marriage equality. USA Today reports:

By scheduling all for consideration simultaneously, the justices gave equal footing to the Indiana and Wisconsin cases just decided last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The 10th and 4th Circuits previously ruled in the other cases.

The court could agree to hear one or more cases this winter; deny them all, or delay its decision for a while.

In all five states, federal district and appellate judges have agreed that state bans on same-sex marriage should be struck down as unconstitutional. But those decisions are on hold pending the Supreme Court's review.

As The Wall Street Journal points out, the Supreme Court could have more cases headed its way very soon. Many are focsued on 4 pending cases before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, a court some legal analysts suspect is more likely than others to uphold marriage bans: "If that happens, it’s a virtual certainty that the Supreme Court would step in and resolve the disagreement."


Plaintiffs in Oklahoma and Virginia Gay Marriage Cases Ask Supreme Court to Weigh In

Earlier this week, we reported that  plaintiffs in the case challenging Utah's ban on same-sex marriage have filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to finally weigh in on the question of whether all citizens have a fundamental right to marry. 

ScotusNow, the plaintiffs challenging gay marriage bans in Oklahoma and Virginia have similarly followed suit and asked the highest court in the land to review their cases as well, The Advocate reports:

When the justices return from vacation in late September, they'll likely find unanimous agreement from all parties that they should consider a marriage equality case. But which cases the court will pick remains in question.

It's worth noting that the cases would have reached the Supreme Court even if the plaintiffs hadn't filed their petitions. The defendants in the cases — attorneys representing the states — have filed petitions as well.

Previously, the same-sex couples serving as plaintiffs in all three states won major victories at the district court and appellate level. UtahOklahoma, and Virginia all enjoyed an unbroken string of victories for the freedom to marry. Ordinarily, the victorious side would oppose a rehearing, as it runs the risk of overturning the decision. But the motivation behind the plaintiffs' briefs boils down to their desire to expand their victories nationwide.

The court has the option of taking up one case, multiple cases, or none at all and could defer a decision until next June. 


Death Of Gay Tulsa Man Regarded As Suspicious, Tulsa Police Counter Claims

Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria of Tulsa, OK was found dead in his apartment on June 20th, but despite Longoria's body being found naked and the apartment covered in blood, Tulsa police are allegedly refusing to investigate the case as suspicious. Dallas activist C.D. Kirven was contacted about the case as it was suspected to be one of HIV/AIDS-related discrimination.

Tulsa Police Sgt. David Walker claimed that Longoria's death was a combination of ethanol abuse and HIV/AIDS, but Longoria's physician Dr. Frances Haas has not signed a death warrant nor has he confirmed any cause of death. Under these circumstances the Tulsa police are supposed to be investigating the death as suspicious. Additionally, Longoria's body was cremated, allegedly at the request of the police due to his HIV status.

Tulsa police are countering this claim and saying that the original Dallas Voice piece contains false information. They released a statement, saying: 

Mr. Longoria’s death was not suspicious in nature therefore it was not further investigated. The Tulsa Police Department does not investigate deaths in which there are no signs of foul play and the individual’s attending physician will sign the death certificate. The Tulsa Police Department responds to many natural deaths in which the attending physician signs the death certificate and there is no autopsy conducted.

Sgt. Walker and other members of the Department have spoken with the family members of Mr. Longoria several times to provide information reference area funeral homes, the medical examiner’s phone number as well as providing them with the victim’s obituary.

The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner claimed that Longoria's death was of natural causes, and that the request for cremation came through legal forms signed by Longoria's family.

Developing...


Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban Appealed to Supreme Court

OK

Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, which was overturned last month by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has now been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. This follows on the heels of a similar appeal made by Utah officials on Tuesday concerning their own state's ban on gay marriage. 

The appeal in Oklahoma was filed by lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian legal counsel representing Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith, who was sued after refusing to grand a marriage license to a gay couple.

The AP reports:

"The 10th Circuit ... negated the exercise of this fundamental right (of voting) by more than 1 million Oklahomans and millions of voters in other states," Wednesday's appeal filing stated. "Invalidating the people's voice on an issue as profound as the definition of marriage presents an important question that warrants this court's review."

ADF senior counsel Byron Babione said, "The people of every state should retain the freedom to preserve marriage if they so choose. Courts shouldn't decide the legal destiny of marriage in any state, let alone in every state."

In a joint statement released last Friday, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, the couple who challenged the gay marriage ban shortly after it was approved overwhelmingly by voters back in 2004, said the following:

“We are ready to see the highest court in the land affirm that marriage equality is the law of the land. We have confidence in our case and our lawyers, and should the Supreme Court agree to hear our case, we anticipate a victory there, as well.”

Read Smith's petition below:

Oklahoma Smith Petition by Equality Case Files 


10th Circuit Decision Striking Down Oklahoma's Gay Marriage Ban Heads to Supreme Court

Baldwin_bishop

Last month's decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage will now be appealed to the highest court in the land, The Oklahoman reports:

Kerri Kupec, spokeswoman for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Oklahoman that the clerk will ask Supreme Court justices to review the July 18 decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that 2-1 decision, the court ruled that Oklahoma’s ban violates 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law.

Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the Tulsa County couple who sued the court clerk when she refused to give them a marriage license, issued a joint statement Friday night.

“Although we aren’t surprised by the Alliance Defending Freedom's decision to appeal our victory from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, neither are we disappointed,” the couple said.

“We are ready to see the highest court in the land affirm that marriage equality is the law of the land. We have confidence in our case and our lawyers, and should the Supreme Court agree to hear our case, we anticipate a victory there, as well.”


10th Circuit Upholds Ruling Striking Down Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban

Oklahoma

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld U.S. District Judge Terence Kern's January ruling striking down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage, Tulsa World reports:

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law for everyone.

The court stayed its opinion, pending an expected appeal.

A three-judge panel of the Denver-based court ruled 2-1 in the Oklahoma case after the same panel ruled June 25 that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution.

The ban was challenged in 2004 in lawsuits by two Tulsa-area lesbian couples, the day after Oklahoma voters approved adding it as an amendment to the state constitution. The ban passed by a 76 percent landslide.

Read the ruling HERE.


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