John M. Becker

Marriage Equality in Wyoming! What's Next?

Filed By John M. Becker | October 21, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Wyoming

As expected, this morning the state of Wyoming formally notified a federal court that it will not appeal a ruling striking down marriage discrimination. Judge Scott Skavdahl lifted the stay on his ruling, allowing marriage licenses to be issued immediately (the state does not require a waiting period).

That's state #32 in the freedom-to-marry column! Here's what the U.S. marriage equality map currently looks like (via the fabulous folks at ThinkProgress):


What states could be filled in next? Details, after the break.

The Stragglers

The most obvious candidates are Montana, Kansas, and South Carolina -- the dark blue states on the map, which are all in circuits (the 9th, 10th, and 4th respectively) where pro-marriage equality appeals court rulings are controlling precedent.

This means that federal courts have to decide freedom-to-marry cases in favor of marriage equality, consistent with that precedent. The ACLU's federal case in Montana will get a hearing on November 20, and a hearing on marriage equality in Kansas will take place this Friday. South Carolina's hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The Sixth

Other candidates are the states in the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could rule any day now: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Oral arguments in marriage cases from all four states (marriage equality in Michigan and Kentucky, recognition in Ohio and Tennessee) were heard on August 6, and many analysts initially expected a 2-1 ruling, but were split on whether they thought the court would rule for or against equality.

But after the Supreme Court gave the green light to marriage equality in the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits this month, some have speculated that the 6th Circuit is rewriting its decision in favor of same-gender marriage (or that it waited to weigh in altogether until the Supreme Court made its move). If the 6th rules for equality, all four states will join the equality column. If it rules the other way, that will create the circuit split the Supremes have indicated is needed for them to weigh in with a nationwide decision.


The Fifth

Earlier this month, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, agreed to "fast-track" its review of two district court rulings on marriage equality -- one striking down Texas's marriage discrimination amendment, the other upholding a similar ban in Louisiana.

This apparently means that oral arguments are likely to take place before the end of the year. The Fifth is one of the most conservative courts in the country, and may be even more likely than the Sixth to rule against equality and create that circuit split.

The other state in the circuit, Mississippi, just got slapped with a federal marriage equality lawsuit yesterday from LGBT rights rockstar Robbie Kaplan.

The Rest

This leaves the 8th Circuit -- home to the marriage equality states of Minnesota and Iowa, the marriage recognition state of Missouri, and the marriage discrimination states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas -- and the 11th (consisting of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, none of which have the freedom to marry).

In the Eleventh Circuit, Florida has a marriage equality case, Brenner v. Scott, that's been decided in district court (in our favor) and appealed by the state. Freedom to Marry reports that the 11th could consider the case this fall or winter. Three federal marriage recognition lawsuits in Alabama and a marriage equality/recognition suit in Georgia are currently working their way through the system, but they're not as far along as Brenner.

In the 8th, a federal district judge in South Dakota held a hearing last week in a same-sex marriage case. Federal lawsuits have been filed in North Dakota and Arkansas; Nebraska has a state-level marriage recognition lawsuit pending, but nothing on the federal level. And in Missouri, an ACLU case challenging marriage discrimination in state court was moved to federal court in July.

Federal litigation is also pending in Puerto Rico, and there is an organized push for marriage equality in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well.

That's all, folks... for now, at least.

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