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Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come

FloridaBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

When last we spoke, the freedom to marry had just been handed a setback: the Sixth Circuit let stand marriage discrimination laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Over the holiday season, though, we took many steps forward in defiance of that egregious and wrongheaded appellate court opinion: Marriage equality officially came to Montana and South Carolina. And although she tried every trick in her book, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could not stop the arc of justice from sweeping ashore in the Sunshine State.

The arrival of marriage freedom in Florida is particularly notable because of how it happened.

BondiIn Florida, a federal district court judge ruled in August that the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional; the judge stayed his decision until January 5, 2015. The Republicans running the state wanted to delay as much as possible as they appealed the judge's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But neither the district court nor the circuit court would grant the state a stay beyond January 5. So, Attorney General Bondi asked the Supreme Court. The Court said no, with only Justice Scalia and Thomas willing to issue the stay.

Note the difference between South Carolina and Montana, on the one hand, and Florida on the other. South Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, which declared Virginia's marriage ban unconstitutional some time ago. Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, which made a similar decision in Idaho's case in October. Because marriage equality was just steps away from all the other states in those jurisdictions as a result of the appellate court decisions, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the South Carolina case.

Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which has not had occasion to rule on a gay marriage case. So the Supreme Court's refusal to grant a stay and to allow marriages to start in Florida was a stronger pro-equality signal than denying a stay in South Carolina.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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South Carolina Town Where Lesbian Police Chief Was Fired, Rehired Adds LGBT Job Protections: VIDEO

Moore.Crystal

It's not often we get to say this, but it's a great week to be gay in the Palmetto State. 

Not only is South Carolina's LGBT community celebrating the arrival of marriage equality, but WBTW Channel 13 reports that the town of Latta — where lesbian police Chief Crystal Moore (above) was fired, then rehired in April — has added LGBT job protections for its workers. 

The new policies, which prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are a direct response to the controversy over Moore, who claimed she was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard for being gay.

Bullard issued Moore seven reprimands in one day, the first in her 20-plus year career. But he denied he fired her for being gay, even though Councilman Jared Taylor provided a recording to a TV station in which Bullard said he'd rather have an alcoholic take care of his kids than a gay person with a “questionable” lifestyle. 

The town's residents and council members rallied to Moore's defense, with voters quickly approving a measure weakening the mayor's powers. When Bulllard tried to hire someone to replace Moore, the council blocked him and rehired her instead. 

The new nondiscrimination policies were actually approved last month, and Latta becomes the smallest city in South Carolina with LGBT job protections, joining Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston and Richland County, according to WBTW. 

Councilman Taylor, who leaked the recording of Bullard, said the policies wouldn't have passed if it weren't for the town's support for Moore: 

“We don't care what you are or what you believe in,” Taylor said. “If you get the job done, you're adequate at your job and you excel at your job, we feel like you should have an opportunity to work and live in our community.” ... 

“Our community rallied around the individual for who she was instead of what she was." 

Of course, there still are no federal or state job protetions for LGBT workers in South Carolina, which Moore called "crazy." 

“As long as I do my job and it doesn't interfere, my personal life should be just that: My personal life,” Moore said. “The town passing an ordinance is just one step to making sure everyone is equal." 

The nondiscrimination policies passed 6-0, but shockingly, Mayor Bullard was not present to vote on them. Maybe he couldn't find a baby-sitter. 

Watch WBTW's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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SCOTUS Denies Emergency Stay in South Carolina Gay Marriage Case, Applications to Begin at Noon Today

ScThe U.S. Supreme Court has denied South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's request for an emergency stay on last week's federal ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

South Carolina NBC station WIS10 reports:

In a brief statement, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices denied the stay, but Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas said they would hear it.

Expect same-sex marriage applications to begin at noon today (even though at least one probate judge has jumped the gun and already began marrying gay couples in the state.)


First Same-Sex Couples Receive Marriage Licenses in South Carolina: VIDEO

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Despite earlier reports that stated same-sex marriage would not begin in South Carolina until Thursday at noon, Probate Judge Irvin Condon has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who had filed for them prior to October 9 of this year. It was on that date when Condon was ordered to stop granting licenses to same-sex couples. Six couples have reportedly said "I do" thanks to the move made by Condon and, unless U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, more couples will be able to make it official starting tomorrow. WCSC reports:

According to Nichols [Judge Condon's attorney], Judge Condon can issue the licenses due to a US district court ruling filed Tuesday that orders South Carolina to legally recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Judge Condon began issuing the licenses to applicants who met all qualifications starting Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. According to Nichols, Judge Condon could have waited until Thursday at Noon to begin issuing licenses.

All marriage applications require a 24-hour waiting period, which Nichols says has already passed in these cases.

"We're absolutely thrilled! We knew going into this we weren't doing it for ourselves but doing it for us, my son and for all the other people who really were afraid to take that step forward," said Condon shortly after the ruling came down Tuesday.

Kayla Bennett and Kristin Anderson (pictured above) had the state's first officially recognized same-sex wedding. Also present today were Charleston County councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiance, Nichols Bleckley. The pair were first in line to receive their marriage license this morning. Bleckledy said, "I do hope that every parent, teacher takes a moment today to explain to kids what's going on and how historic this moment is."

Watch a new report on Condon's decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

[Photo via Twitter]

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South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson Asks SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts to Stay Gay Marriage Ruling: READ

6a00d8341c730253ef01901defb276970b-800wiSouth Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson, who has long been entrenched in his battle against attempts to end the state's discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage, is seeking a stay of U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel's ruling that struck down the Palmetto state's marriage ban as unconstitutional from none other than U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Just yesterday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a similar appeal made by Wilson. Now, as BuzzFeed reports, all eyes turn to Roberts and whether the 6th Circuit's move to uphold same-sex marriage bans and the subsequent appeals by plaintiffs in those cases will sway Roberts to intervene:

Since the justices turned down five states’ requests on Oct. 6 to take a marriage case appeal — including a decision from the 4th Circuit striking down Virginia’s marriage ban — the justices have, on three occasions, turned down requests to issue stays of lower court rulings during appeals. This includes one, in Kansas, since the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld four other states’ bans.

Now, however, with requests in from the plaintiffs in those four states’ cases asking the Supreme Court to take one or more of the appeals and resolve the question, Wilson is hoping that he can get a stay issued from the court to stop the trial court ruling from going into effect Thursday.

Specifically, South Carolina is asking the chief justice to grant a stay pending appeal because, the filing asserts, the 4th Circuit Court was wrong in its decision in the case challenging Virginia’s marriage ban, Bostic v. Schaefer, which the Supreme Court let stand on Oct. 6.

Same-sex marriage is set to begin Thursday at noon in South Carolina should a stay not be granted.

Read the appeal filed by Wilson, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Couples in South Carolina Prepare to Marry on Thursday; State's Request for Stay Still Pending

Gay couples in South Carolina are prepared to begin marrying on Thursday at noon, which is when the stay in U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel's ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban expires.

SouthcarolinaLast week after Gergel struck down the ban, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed an emergency stay request asking for the court's order to be halted pending an appeal to the full Fourth Circuit, or, if denied, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys for plaintiffs Colleen Condon and her fiancee Nichols Bleckley filed their response to Wilson's request late Sunday, The Post and Courier reports:

"Currently 34 states permit same-sex couples to marry, or recognize marriages legally celebrated by same-sex couples in other states. If history is any indicator, the State's claim of potential harm here is overstated, if not completely contrived," the new filings says.

Malissa Burnette, lead attorney in Condon's case, has said she feels very optimistic the Fourth Circuit will uphold Gergel's ruling. It is the same court that struck down Virginia's constitutional gay marriage ban and was among those that triggered the recent cascade of legalized same-sex marriage across the nation.

The Fourth Circuit could rule on Wilson's request for an emergency stay at any time.

SCOTUS has also already turned down an appeal request from Virginia in its marriage case, and all the other states in the Fourth Circuit have marriage equality, so it would be a strange and troubling move for the Court to grant Wilson's request.


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