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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. 


Plaintiffs Challenging Utah's Gay Marriage Ban Ask Supreme Court to Weigh in on Fundamental Right to Marry

As expected, the 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. 

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Scotus"Today, our nation’s same-sex couples and their children live in a country where they may be denied legal recognition as a family or may find their marriages invalidated simply by virtue of crossing a state line," according to the brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Utah’s request that the court hear its case.

"This court should grant the petition and hold that denying same-sex couples the fundamental freedom to marry and to have their marriages recognized violates our nation’s cherished and essential constitutional guarantees."

Said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter:

“Same-sex couples experience real hardships as a result of being denied the freedom to marry and to have their marriages respected wherever they travel or live. In the past year, more than 30 state and federal courts have ruled that state laws barring same-sex couples from marriage are unconstitutional. We hope the Supreme Court will consider this issue in its next term and will concur that same-sex couples and their children are an integral part of our nation’s fabric and must be given the same protection and respect as other families.”    

Earlier this month, Utah became the first state to appeal a ruling striking down a state ban on gay marriage to the Supreme Court. The Utah government, led by Attorney General Sean Reyes, is arguing that states have a right to continue defining marriage as they see fit and has pledged to "spend whatever it takes" to keep the ban in place.  

This week, it was announced that head civil rights lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders Mary Bonauto would be joining the legal team challenging Utah's same-sex marriage ban. 

Read the brief below:

Plaintiffs' Response Brief via Equality Case Files


NOM Leader Jennifer Roback-Morse Believes Marriage Equality Will Go Nationwide Within the Year

MorseJennifer Roback-Morse, who has long been a mouthpiece for the National Organization for Marriage and currently serves as president of NOM offshoot Ruth Institute, is putting marriage equality on the fast track - predicting that the issue will be solved within the legal system within the year.   

The Advocate reports that Morse told the National Catholic Singles' Conference earlier this month that she wanted to "go on the record" about "what is going to happen as we move along the path of redefining marriage." 

"We're here, in 2014, talking about the redefinition of marriage. I'm going to go on the record here, and forecast, that by this time next year, it'll be over, as a legal matter," Morse continues. "There will be same-sex, genderless marriage in every state in the union."

Morse went on to apologize to any Texans in the room, telling them that they "are not going to be able to hold out" on maintaining discriminatory marriage laws.

Luckily, Morse and any anti-gay bigots in the audience can find solace knowing that the majority of Utah (and Maggie Gallagher) stand with them in continuing to oppose marriage equality while still accepting its inevitability. 


Pivotal Supreme Court Order Used To Defend Gay Marriage Bans Losing Support

McConnell_(l)_and_Baker_(r)_apply_for_marriage_license_19700518

A growing number of lower-court judges tasked with reviewing the Constitutionality of states’ bans on same sex marriage are reconsidering a pivotal order issued in Baker v. Nelson, a 1972 Supreme Court case. Baker, a case challenging a state’s ability to legally limit marriage to opposite sex couples, was initially heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court before being rejected and appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Warren E. Burger-led Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, citing a “want of a substantial federal question,” effectively giving legal merit to Baker’s ruling.

Baker has been used widely by opponents of same sex marriage as a legal precedent reflecting the then-Court’s views on gay marriage. Speaking to the lawyers defending California’s gay marriage ban, Ruth Bader Ginsberg expressed her doubts about Baker, citing the ways in which society and the court have changed,

“The Supreme Court hadn’t even decided that gender-based classifications get any kind of heightened scrutiny," she said at the time. “And the same-sex intimate conduct was considered criminal in many states in 1971, so I don’t think we can extract much in Baker v. Nelson.”

When taken in account, Baker automatically guides courts to decisions affirming bans because the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Baker’s appeal acts as an affirmation of the original Minnesotan Supreme Court’s ruling. More and more, however, the Supreme Court’s move to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act is being read as a broad consensus that Baker is a chunk of legal history that needs to be dealt with.

“These cases demonstrate that, since Baker, the Court has meaningfully altered the way it views both sex and sexual orientation through the equal protection lens,” Circuit Judge Henry Ford wrote to the Washington Post. “The Supreme Court’s willingness to decide Windsor without mentioning Baker speaks volumes regarding whether Baker remains good law.”


Virginia County Clerk Petitions SCOTUS to Stop Gay Marriages, Scheduled to Begin Thursday

Virginia

A Virginia county clerk backed by an anti-gay Christian legal group has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block same-sex marriages expected to begin in the state next week following the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' refusal to delay its decision late last month striking down Virginia's gay marriage ban. 

It was reported earlier that, barring SCOTUS intervention, same-sex couples in Virginia could begin getting licenses to wed as early as next Monday or Wednesday, but now it appears the Fourth Circuit's decision will go into effect at 9am Thursday.

Washington Blade reports:

Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the ban on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg, made its case in a 26-page brief for why justices should overturn a decision from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to refuse a stay on the same-sex marriages.

“Unless this Court issues the stay requested here and makes clear that the courts of appeals should stay their mandates in these cases, it is likely that other circuits will mistakenly follow the Fourth Circuit’s lead,” the brief states. “Yet that would invite needless chaos and uncertainty rather than facilitate the orderly and dignified resolution of a constitutional question of enormous national importance.”

The petition from ADF was delivered to Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s responsible for stay requests for the Fourth Circuit and can decide the matter on his own or refer the request to the entire court for consideration.

SCOTUSblog adds:

Twice before, the Supreme Court has blocked same-sex weddings or state recognition of existing same-sex marriages when asked to do so by state officials in Utah [Kitchen v. Herbert & Evans v. Utah].  Some judges have interpreted those orders as indicating that the Justices do not want such marriages to go ahead until after appeals have been resolved.

Despite this, National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter says there's a possibility that the Court could deny a stay this time around in the Virginia case.

Court to deny a stay this time around in the Virginia case. “A lot has changed since the Court issued a stay in Kitchen, which was the first district court decision in the entire country striking down a state marriage ban after Windsor,” Minter said. “There are now many other such decisions, in every corner of the nation. The Court could decide that a stay is no longer warranted.” 

 Read McQuigg's petition below:


Plaintiffs in Utah Gay Marriage Case Will Ask Supreme Court to Hear State's Appeal

Attorneys for three Utah gay couples challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage have announced their plans to join the state in asking the Supreme Court to take up a 10th Circuit decision striking down the ban.

ScotusOn Tuesday, Utah became the first state to appeal a ruling striking down a state ban on gay marriage to the Supreme Court.  

The AP reports:

It is vital that justices weigh in about whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the Constitution to settle the matter for a nation that needs an answer, said Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The group is representing the couples alongside private attorneys in Utah.

"Because we understand the tremendous importance of this issue, and that the ultimate question can only be finally resolved at the Supreme Court, we agree with attorneys for the state of Utah that the court should take the case and provide a final resolution," Kendell said.

The New York Times adds:

Neal Katyal, a former acting United States solicitor general who also represents the Utah couples, said the importance of the issue warranted an unusual approach.

“This is the defining issue for the Supreme Court in our lifetime,” he said. “The notion that the government could deny life’s greatest partnership on the basis of orientation is capricious and strikes at everything this country is about.”

He said the couples would file a brief in the coming weeks joining Utah’s request that the Supreme Court hear the case. Such a filing would come in time for the justices to consider the case at their first private conference when they return from their summer break. Should the justices agree to hear the case, they could schedule arguments in the winter and issue a decision by June.


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