John M. Becker

Marriage Equality Round-Up: AR, GA, ID, IN, NC

Filed By John M. Becker | May 02, 2014 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Arkansas, gay marriage, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, lawsuit, marriage equality, North Carolina, same-sex marriage

wedding_rings.jpgAs often happens these days, marriage equality-related stories are coming in so fast it's easy to lose track of them all. Here's a round-up of the latest freedom-to-marry news to get you up to speed.

1.) Arkansas

A circuit court judge in Arkansas announced that he will rule on the constitutionality of that state's marriage discrimination amendment in one week or less. The Washington Blade's Chris Johnson reports:

In a notice dated May 1 to attorneys in the case, Summer McCoy, a law clerk for the Pulaski County Circuit Court, says Judge Chris Piazza will take an addition week to consider the issue, then make a decision.

"Judge Piazza has asked me to notify you that he would like to take an additional week to consider the case law, briefs of parties, and arguments of counsel," McCoy writes. "He feels confident that he will have a ruling for the parties no later than Friday, May 9th."

The clerk doesn't say whether the judge is inclined to rule one way or another on marriage equality when he makes his decision.

Updates from Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, and North Carolina are after the jump.

2.) Georgia

Four same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses in Chatham County, Georgia yesterday as part of the statewide May Day Georgia Marriage Equality Campaign were brusquely denied, according to the Savannah Morning News:

Pastor Candace Hardnett and Evangelist Erika Majors from Agape Empowerment Ministries were one of the couples who applied for a marriage license.

The Probate Court is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, and the couples made their way up to the courthouse's fifth floor, the location of the Probate Court, but they say their warm welcome at the courthouse suddenly turned sour.

"We knew we would get denied," Hardnett said. "But it was still discouraging to be treated in that manner.

"We watched a heterosexual couple approach the clerk before us, and she handed them their application on a clipboard with pens, but when we approached she just handed us the application with no pens or clipboard. "It was obvious her attitude was already very discouraged."

Majors agreed about the cool reception from the clerk... Chief clerk/administrator for Chatham's Probate Court, Kim Birge... maintains her staff was professional during the encounter.

3.) Idaho

The federal challenge to Idaho's marriage discrimination amendment, led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, gets its first court hearing Monday. Via the Times-News:

Four Boise-based same-sex couples are challenging Idaho's constitutional ban after Ada County refused to issue marriage certificates or recognize marriages from other states. Similar bans in other states, including Utah's, have recently been struck down in district-level federal courts and are under appeal.

The Idaho suit was filed in November against Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich. In their request, the couples argue that Idaho's ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Argument will be heard before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale at 9:30 a.m.

4.) Indiana

A federal judge in Evansville, Indiana will preside today over two marriage equality hearings, according to the Post-Tribune:

U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young will hear oral arguments in the latest chapter in Baskin vs Bogan, a federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal in March in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of five Indiana couples, three of whom live in Northwest Indiana.

According to a Lambda Legal spokesman, Young is considering a motion for summary judgment seeking to have Indiana's ban on gay marriages overturned.

"This will be for all same-sex couples in Indiana, not just our plaintiffs," the spokesman said. Local couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Niki Quasney, 37, and Amy Sandler, 37, of Munster; Lyn Judkins, 57, and Bonnie Everly, 56, of Chesterton; and Dawn Carver, 41, and Pam Eanes, 50, of Munster...

The other hearing will be for a preliminary injunction to extend the recognition of the marriage of Quasney and Sandler through the duration of the court proceedings. In April, Young granted the couple's request for a temporary restraining order to keep the state from enforcing its ban on gay marriages against them.

5.) North Carolina

North Carolina's innovative new marriage equality lawsuit -- which challenges the state's 2012 marriage discrimination amendment on the grounds that it violates the religious freedom of clergy members who wish to perform same-gender marriages -- has the potential to "driv[e] a wedge between some major opponents of same-sex marriage," the Huffington Post reports:

[I]n a unique twist, the suit adds that the ban also violates the First Amendment right of members of the clergy to practice their faith -- because the state's ban criminalizes pastors who bless same-sex unions, leaving clergy open to arrest.

That's a cause that's gaining unexpected support.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared Tuesday that North Carolina's ban is "dubious and dangerous." And while Mohler has not changed his opposition to same-sex marriage -- he once equated homosexuality with cancer -- he did concede that the UCC clergy's lawsuit is "very convincing."

"It puts those of us who advocate both for marriage as the union of a man and a woman and for religious liberty, including the liberty of Christians to hold fast to a Christian and biblical understanding of marriage, in a very difficult position," said Mohler in a podcast Tuesday...

Experts say the lawsuit may reflect a shift in the fight over gay rights, noting that opponents of same-sex marriage have lately been arguing more and more that allowing gay couples to wed threatens the religious freedom of both clergy and business owners who believe their faith opposes it.

"It turns everything on its head," Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Dartmouth College and author of First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, said of the suit.

We can only hope!


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