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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.  


U.S. Diplomat To Marry Turkish Pop Star Partner: VIDEO

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Charles F. Hunter, U.S. Consul General in Istanbul, is to marry his partner, Turkish pop star Ramadan Çaysever, reports Daily Sabah.

Speaking at an event in the Dutch consulate, Hunter spoke about his relationship with Çaysever for the first time and confirmed reports about the planned marriage. The couple are thought to have met at one of Çaysever’s concerts.

Hunter proposed a few months ago and told friends about the planned wedding at Thanksgiving.

The wedding will take place in Hunter's hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin, where the couple are set to travel on December 20th.  However, a date for the ceremony has not been confirmed.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Wisconsin in October.

Watch the music video for Çaysever's "Diskotek", AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "U.S. Diplomat To Marry Turkish Pop Star Partner: VIDEO" »


Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) Wins Re-Election

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Out gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) has won re-election, defeating Republican Peter Theron to keep his Madison-area House seat.

With 73.3% reporting, Pocan led Theron with 68.3% to 31.7%.


Seeking Conservative Endorsement, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Touts Anti-Gay Views

WalkerCurrent Wisconsin Governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker (R) has been careful to avoid publicly expressing his official views on hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage. In the face of the looming November 4th election date however, Walker has begun to more aggressively court Wisconsin’s conservative vote. In an attempt to secure endorsement from Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative 501c(4) organization, Walker opened up about his stance on same sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose.

"I would hope that my record and the stark contrast with my opponent's positions would garner your support," the governor implored, asserting his belief that marriage could only be defined as a union between a man and a woman.

Before becoming governor Walker openly endorsed a proposal for a same sex marriage ban within Wisconsin. More recently he’s dodged direct questions about his opinions on marriage equality given steadily shifting poll numbers indicating the public’s broadening acceptance.

"He hasn't been straight with people," said Mary Burke, Burke’s primary democratic competition. "He does owe it to the people of Wisconsin to be clear on these issues."

Walker reaffirmed his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, pointing to his decisions to cut funding, access, and support to abortion providers throughout the state. Last year Walker stealthily signed a bill into law that required women seeking abortions to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds. The bill also drastically reduced the number of centers allowed to perform abortions by banning doctors without broader admitting privileges from performing the procedure.

"This bill improves a woman's ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future," Walker said of the bill, which he pointedly elected to sign in private.


Eric Holder Announces Federal Government Will Recognize Gay Marriage in Seven New States: VIDEO

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Responding to the Supreme Court's marriage decision last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the federal government will begin recognizing same-sex marriages taking place in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Idaho - with additional states likely to follow.

Said Holder:

“I am pleased to announce that the federal government will recognize the same-sex marriages now taking place in the affected states, and I have directed lawyers here at the Department of Justice to work with our colleagues at agencies across the Administration to ensure that all applicable federal benefits are extended to those couples as soon as possible.  We will not delay in fulfilling our responsibility to afford every eligible couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the full rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled.

He continued:

The steady progress toward LGBT equality we’ve seen – and celebrated – is important and historic.  But there remain too many places in this country where men and women cannot visit their partners in the hospital, or be recognized as the rightful parents of their own adopted children; where people can be discriminated against just because they are gay.  Challenges to marriage restrictions are still being actively litigated in courts across the country.  And while federal appeals courts have so far been unanimous in finding that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, if a disagreement does arise, the Supreme Court may address the question head-on.  If that happens, the Justice Department is prepared to file a brief consistent with its past support for marriage equality. 

Watch Holder's full remarks HERE.

In addition to the seven states above, marriage equality has also come to West Virginia, North Carolina, and Arizona (announced earlier today).

Gay marriage began in Alaska but has since been put on hold while the state appeals a pro-equality ruling to the Supreme Court (expect marriages to resume later today)

A federal court ruling in the challenge to Wyoming's gay marriage ban is expected Monday, with Governor Matt Mead saying the state will respect whatever decision is made.


Wisconsin Gov. Walker To Grant Recognition To 550 Same-Sex Couples Married In June

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has announced that the state will recognize the 550 or so marriages between same-sex couples that were performed this past June in the wake of a federal judge's ruling that found Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports:

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said his administration would now treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same for issuing wedding licenses and "determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage."

"Per the guidance from the Department of Justice, state agencies will examine and update forms, manuals, and other documents consistent with the ruling, and the state will be treating licenses issued in June as valid marriage licenses," Patrick said. 
 
Larry Dupuis, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, called the order "great news" and said it should help to wrap up litigation over gay marriage. The ACLU represents same-sex couples who brought the original lawsuit against the state for recognition of the right to marry as well as a follow-up lawsuit regarding several hundred couples who didn't have their June marriages recognized.
 
Kiersten Bloechl-Karlsen, one of the plaintiffs in the follow-up lawsuit, praised the order.
 
"In our case, I’ve been a mother to our little girl since the day she was born but was unable to sign her birth certificate. We can now pursue a second parent adoption so that our right as a family to remain legally connected to each other, no matter what happens, is not compromised," she said in a statement.
 
In a question and answer page on its web page, the state Department of Revenue said that going forward same-sex newlyweds will need to file their taxes as married filing jointly or separately, just as other couples do. 
 
Couples will also be available to file amended tax returns for 2013 and prior years where applicable, according to the agency. That would allow couples to go as far back as amending tax returns filed for the 2010 tax year in April 2011. 

Marriage equality was halted in Wisconsin after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Federal Judge Barbara Crabb's decision and decided to review the case. The 7th Circuit ruled unanimously against the ban. As a consequence, the state appealed the appellate court's ruling to the Supreme Court. The high Court passed on the case, leaving in place the 7th Circuit's ruling. Following that decision from the Court, a spokesperson for Governor Walker then commented, "Our office is working with the Department of Justice to evaluate the impact of the Supreme Court's decision and determine next steps for the state." Next steps that now seem to indicate a fuller measure of equality for Wisconsin's LGBT citizens.


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