Saturday, October 18, 2014

Avalanche of Same-Sex Marriage Legal Developments

In the last several days there has been an avalanche of legal developments relating to same-sex marriages:

Alaska:  Yesterday in Parnell v. Hamby, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying a stay of a federal district court's decision striking down Alaska's same-sex marriage ban.

Arizona: in Majors v. Horne,(D AZ, Oct. 17, 2014) and Connolly v. Jeanes, (D AZ, Oct. 17, 2014), an Arizona federal district court in two short and substantially identical opinions struck down Arizona's ban on same-sex marriages, citing the 9th Circuit's decision earlier this month in Latta v. Otter striking down bans in Nevada and Idaho. (See prior posting.) State Attorney General Tom Horne announced he would not appeal and sent a letter to the state's 15 county clerks telling them that they may not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Arizona Republic reports on developments.

Wyoming: In Guzzo v. Mead, (D WY, Oct. 17, 2014), a Wyoming federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against Wyoming's ban on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.  However the court also granted a stay of its injunction until Oct. 23 to allow an appeal to the 10th Circuit or until an earlier date at which the state informs the court that it will not appeal. Governor Matt Mead's office announced that the state will file a notice with the district court that it will not appeal the decision.

Idaho: Two Christian ministers and their for-profit wedding chapel located across the street from the Kootenai County (Idaho) Clerk’s office (which issues marriage licenses) brought suit in an Idaho federal district court to enjoin the city of Coeur d'Alene from enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance against them. The 63-page complaint (full text) in Knapp v. City of Coeur d'Alene, (D ID, filed Oct. 17, 2014) contends that the Ordinance violates plaintiffs' 1st and 14th Amendment rights as well as their rights under state law. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.  ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

North Carolina: In North Carolina, the general counsel of the state's Administrative Office of the Courts on Oct. 14 issued a memo (full text) to judges and magistrates stating that magistrates must perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples who present a license in the same way they do for opposite-sex couples. Refusal to do so could lead to suspension, removal or even criminal charges. In response, on Thursday Rockingham County Magistrate Judge John Kallam who has religious objections to performing same-sex marriages resigned.  Alamance County Judge Jim Roberson, who originally suggested that Magistrates with religious objections be excused from performing same-sex ceremonies, issued a statement yesterday saying that magistrates in his county are required to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. (Qnotes.)  Time Warner Cable News reported on developments.

Federal Government: On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the federal government will now recognize same-sex marriages performed in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin for purposes of extending federal benefits. The action came after the Supreme Court refused review of Circuit Court decisions affecting those states. Apparently (though there is some slight ambiguity in DOJ's announcement) the federal government will also recognize same-sex marriages performed in Nevada and Idaho after the Supreme Court refused to stay the 9th Circuit's decision as to those states. (See prior posting.)