Updated We are starting, as I always try to do, with some good news - and there's a bunch of good news on this topic this week.
Last week, May 13, federal Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution.
In trying to defend the ban, Idaho state officials used the same sorts of arguments that have failed elsewhere: For example, they claimed the ban was necessary to protect children - but as always, they were not able to say from exactly what. When Michigan actively tried to go down that road at trial over its ban, the state got shot down in flames.
Idaho also said that overturning the ban would violate voters' rights. But that ran into the long-standing legal principle that Constitutional rights trump voters' rights. Majorities, even heavy majorities, do not override basic rights. Indeed, Judge Dale said precisely that in her ruling:
[A] state's broad authority to regulate matters of state concern does not include the power to violate an individual’s protected Constitutional rights.She described the ban as relegating gay and lesbian families "to a stigmatized, second-class status" and found the ban "does not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny."
Idaho governor Butch Otter filed a preemptive motion to have Judge Dale stay her ruling, a motion which was granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Remember, this does not overturn the ruling, it merely says it can't go into effect during appeals. This is a pretty common part of the judicial process and Appeals Courts rarely decline to stay a lower court's order unless it feels that the appealing party - in this case, the state of Idaho - has essentially no chance to prevail on appeal.
Dale's ruling marked the 16th consecutive favorable marriage equality ruling in state and federal courts since the US Supreme Court ruled last June in Windsor v. United States that central portions of the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional.
Idaho is not only source of good news on this front. On Monday, May 19, US District Judge Michael McShane threw out Oregon's same-sex marriage ban.
The interesting thing here is that Oregon state officials earlier refused to defend the ban in court and said they wouldn't appeal the decision. An attempt by the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage to intervene in the case was denied by at both the district and appeals levels.
What that means is that this is likely is end of the line for this case - and Oregon has become the 18th state with marriage justice.
On that same day, May 19, a federal judge in Utah ordered state officials to recognize some same-sex marriages that recently took place in Utah. Earlier, a federal judge who ruled Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional refused to stay the effect of his order and it was about two weeks before the Supreme Court issued the stay, blocking any further same-sex marriages in the state during appeals. In that time, more than 1,000 same-sex couples had gotten married in Utah and the issue here was the legal status of those marriages. The court ruled that Utah must recognize those marriages.
Rounding out a good week for marriage justice, on Tuesday, May 20, US federal District Judge John Jones ruled that Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Which, including the Utah case, makes 19 straight court victories for marriage equality.
By the way, it was a tough week for Pennsylvania Governor Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett: Last week, I told you about his voter ID law getting shot down, now this. So last week he couldn't hinder the ability of the poor and minorities to vote and this week he can't keep gays and lesbians from marrying those they love. What a shame.
Oh, and as a quick sidebar, some poetic justice:
On May 20, the city council of Topeka, Kansas, the hometown of the fascistically anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, passed two ordinances in favor of LGBT equality. One will create a domestic partnership registry in the city; the other will add gender identity as a protected class for city employment.
Updated with the news that after the show was recorded, Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett, admitting that the ruling about same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania would be “extremely unlikely” to be overturned on appeal, announced that his administration would let the decision stand. Which makes Pennsylvania the 19th state to recognize the right of same-sex marriage.
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