A lot of small but significant things happened on the marriage equality front this past week. Here are the stories that are important to you and what you need to know to keep up with the fight for equality.
1. Florida Couples File Suit for Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriage Recognition
Eight Florida same-sex couples have filed a suit in federal court to obtain the right to have their marriages that were entered into in other states recognized within Florida. This legal challenge is separate from a suit filed in January and takes specific aim at the state’s ban on conducting same-sex marriages within state borders. The lawsuit is also significant in that it also would appear to challenge the remaining portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Section 2, which says that states do not have to recognize gay marriages conducted in other states.
The lawsuit is filed in Florida’s Northern District and is brought by the SAVE Foundation, a grassroots Florida equality group, with the backing of the Florida wing of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
2. Indiana Couples File Second (and Possibly Third) Suit Against the State
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Monday, March 10, on behalf of three couples wanting their right to marry recognized by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The lawsuit may not in fact be the only additional suit either, with the ACLU announcing its plans to file a third suit on behalf of 15 more couples, with the express aim of forcing Indiana to recognize marriage equality within the state as well as same-sex marriages that were carried out in other states.
The suits themselves aren’t that different from the first suit filed at the beginning of March, but attempt to bring in different voices from throughout the LGB community. The third lawsuit is also said to include two children of same-sex couples who are ready to testify about the harms the ban has imposed on their families.
3. Arizona’s Marriage Equality Ban Challenged in Federal Court
In addition to a suit filed in Arizona in January, marriage equality advocates have filed another lawsuit in the US District Court in Phoenix. The lawsuit differs from the previous suit as, in addition to seven couples, there are two people whose same-sex partners have died. They aim to detail how the state’s failure to recognize same-sex marriages harmed them by refusing them the right to have their names listed as spouses on their partner’s death certificates.
The suit is also particularly tailored to address the other harms that Arizona’s gay marriage ban causes, namely that because Arizona relies on marriage status to allow couples to jointly adopt, and so same-sex couples are denied this right.
4. Judge Rules Lesbians Can’t Divorce in Alabama
A same-sex couple who were married in Iowa in 2012 have been refused an uncontested divorce by Judge Karen Hall because, she says, there is no provision under Alabama state law to allow them to even ask for a dissolution because Alabama does not recognize marriage equality in the first place.
The judge returned this ruling without comment, suggesting that she was pointing out, and quite starkly, the way forward for the couple if they wish to seek that right: they must challenge the state’s ban on marriage equality in order to obtain the right to a dissolution. They would have a reasonably strong case, too, as a simple remedy isn’t open to the two women. They can’t just return to Iowa and divorce as they must live within the state for an extended period before they can seek a divorce. This puts an unreasonable burden on them, and should put them in a good position if they challenge the law which their lawyers have said they intend to do.
5. Queen Gives Royal Ascent to Scotland’s Marriage Equality Law
The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, gave what is known as her royal assent to Scotland’s marriage equality law, meaning that the final large procedural hurdle to marriage equality in Scotland is now out of the way. As such, same-sex marriages could now be conducted in Scotland as soon as July.
In the same week, procedural changes in England and Wales have meant that same-sex marriages that were carried out in other countries can now be recognized. Registrars have also started accepting notes of intent to marry, meaning that the countdown to marriage equality within England and Wales is also ticking away.
6. Judge Rules that Plaintiffs Can Marry in Tennessee
Federal Judge Aleta Arthur Trauger granted three same-sex couples in Tennessee a preliminary injunction against the state’s marriage equality ban on the grounds that there is a reasonable chance they will win their suit challenging the state ban.
“At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history,” the judge is quoted as saying.
Unsurprisingly, the judge based this decision in part on the landmark Supreme Court decision of last year, Windsor v. United States. While this injunction does not affect other same-sex couples in the state, it signals that in the near future same-sex marriage will come to Tennessee.
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