Gay Primary Source

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Federal Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania

"Today, certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not guaranteed the right to marry the person they love. Nor does Pennsylvania recognize the marriages of other couples who have wed elsewhere. Hoping to end this injustice, eleven courageous lesbian and gay couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the aforesaid couples have come together as plaintiffs and asked this Court to declare that all Pennsylvanians have the right to marry the person of their choice and consequently, that the Commonwealth’s laws to the contrary are unconstitutional. We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage...

... Defendants have failed to carry their burden, and we conclude that the classification imposed by the Marriage Laws based on sexual orientation is not substantially related to an important governmental interest. Accordingly, we hold that the Marriage Laws violate the principles of equal protection and are therefore unconstitutional.

Based on the foregoing, we hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because these laws are unconstitutional, we shall enter an order permanently enjoining their enforcement. By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

An appropriate Order shall issue."

Judge John E. Jones III, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, May 20, 2014.

     click here to read the entire decision


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Federal Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Oregon

"... Expanding the embrace of civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples will not burden any legitimate state interest. The attractiveness of marriage to opposite-gender couples is not derived from its inaccessibility to same-gender couples. 0ee Perry, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 972 ("Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite­sex marriages."). The well-being of Oregon's children is not enhanced by destabilizing and limiting the rights and resources available to gay and lesbian families. See Obergefell v. Wymyslo, 962 F. Supp. 2d 968, 994~95 (S.D. Ohio 2013) ("The only effect the bans have on children's well-being is harming the children of same-sex couples who are denied the protection and stability of having parents who are legally married.").

The state's marriage laws unjustifiably treat same-gender couples differently than opposite-gender couples. The laws assess a couple's fitness for civil marriage based on their sexual orientation: opposite-gender couples pass; same-gender couples do not. No legitimate state purpose justifies the preclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage...

It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading "God Hates Fags" make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides. At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities.

My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other... and rise.


... The Court finds that there is no legitimate state interest that would justify the denial of the full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, protections, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities of marriage to same-gender couples solely on the basis that those couples are of the same gender...

The Court hereby DECLARES that Article 1S, section SA, of the Oregon Constitution violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that as such it is void and unenforceable. Defendants and their officers, agents, and employees are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from enforcing Article 1S, section SA, of the Oregon Constitution.

The Court also DECLARES that ORS 106.010, ORS 106.041(1), and ORS 106.1S0(1) violate the Equal Protection Clause and are unenforceable to the extent that they would prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same gender, or would deny same-gender couples the right to marry with full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities of marriage, where the couple would be otherwise qualified to marry under Oregon law. Defendants and their officers, agents, and employees are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from enforcing or applying those statutes-or any other state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance-as the basis to deny marriage to same-gender couples otherwise qualified to marry in Oregon, or to deny married same-gender couples any of the rights, benefits, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities that accompany marriage in Oregon.

The Court DECLARES that the Equal Protection Clause requires recognition of marriages of same-gender couples legally performed in other jurisdictions, where those marriages are in all other respects valid under Oregon law, and that no state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance can deny recognition of a same-gender couple's marriage validly performed in another jurisdiction. The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants and their officers, agents, and employees from denying that recognition."

Judge Michael J. McShane, US District Court for the District of Oregon, May 19, 2014.

      click here to read entire decision (Opinion and Order in Geiger v. Kitzhaber (6:13-cv-01834)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Federal Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Idaho

"This case asks a basic and enduring question about the essence of American government: Whether the will of the majority, based as it often is on sincere beliefs and democratic consensus, may trump the rights of a minority. Plaintiffs are two same-sex couples who desire to marry in Idaho and two same-sex couples who legally married in other states and wish to have their marriages recognized in Idaho. Under the Constitution and laws of the State of Idaho (Idaho’s Marriage Laws), marriage between a man and a woman is the only legally recognized domestic union. Idaho effectively prohibits same-sex marriage and nullifies same-sex marriages legally celebrated in other states. Plaintiffs request the Court declare these laws unconstitutional and enjoin Idaho from enforcing them, which would allow the Unmarried Plaintiffs to marry and the Married Plaintiffs to be legally recognized as married in the state they consider home.

Although 17 states legally recognize same-sex marriages, Idaho is one of many states that has chosen the opposite course. Like courts presiding over similar cases across the country, the Court must examine whether Idaho’s chosen course is constitutional. Significantly, the Supreme Court of the United States recently held that the federal government cannot constitutionally define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013). Writing for the majority in Windsor, Justice Kennedy reasoned the “purpose and effect” of the federal man-woman marriage definition was “to disparage and injure” legally married same-sex couples in derogation of the liberty, due process, and equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Here, the Court considers a related but distinct question: Do Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny Plaintiffs the due process or equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

After careful consideration, the Court finds Idaho’s Marriage Laws unconstitutional. This conclusion reaffirms longstanding maxim underlying our system of government - a state’s broad authority to regulate matters of state concern does not include the power to violate an individual’s protected constitutional rights... Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so. These laws do not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny...

This principle resonates today, as 10 federal courts across the country have in recent months reached similar conclusions on the very issues present in this case. Considering many of the same arguments and much of the same law, each of these courts concluded that state laws prohibiting or refusing to recognize same-sex marriage fail to rationally advance legitimate state interests. This judicial consensus was forged from each court’s independent analysis of Supreme Court cases extending from Loving through Romer, Lawrence, and Windsor. The logic of these precedents virtually compels the conclusion that same-sex and opposite-sex couples deserve equal dignity when they seek the benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage. Because Idaho’s Marriage Laws do not withstand any applicable form of constitutional scrutiny, the Court finds they violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Plaintiffs are entitled to extraordinary remedies because of their extraordinary injuries. Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status.  Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love.

The Defendants offered no evidence that same-sex marriage would adversely affect opposite-sex marriages or the well-being of children. Without proof, the Defendants’ justifications echo the unsubstantiated fears that could not prop up the anti-miscegenation laws and rigid gender roles of days long past. Then as now, it is the duty of the courts to apply the law to the facts in evidence. Here, the facts are clear and the law teaches that marriage is a fundamental right of all citizens, which neither tradition nor the majority can deny.

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection lie at the core of our constitutional system. While the Supreme Court has not expressly decided the issues of this case, it has over the decades marked the path that leads to today’s decision. “[T]he history of our Constitution... is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.” United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 557 (1996). Slow as the march toward equality may seem, it is never in vain...

The Court hereby DECLARES that Idaho's Marriage Laws are unconstitutional because they violate Plaintiffs' rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale, U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, May 13, 2014.

           click here to read entire decision

Monday, May 12, 2014

Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Arkansas

"...The defendants offer several rationalizations for the disparate treatment of same-sex couples such as the basic premise of the referendum process, procreation, that denying marriage protections to same-sex couples and their families is justified in the name of protecting children, and continuity of the laws and tradition. None of these reasons provide a rational basis for adopting the amendment. The state defendants contend that this court must follow the last pronouncement by Arkansas voters, as long as the ban does not violate a fundamental right of the United States Constitution. They argue that the Arkansas Constitution can be amended by the people, and three out of four voters in the 2004 general election said that same-sex couples cannot marry. This position is unsuccessful from both a federal and state constitution perspective. Article 2, § 2 of the Arkansas Constitution guarantees Arkansans certain inherent and inalienable rights, including the enjoyment of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In this case, Article 2 § 2 was left intact by the voters, but in Amendment 83 they singled out same-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent. Furthermore, the fact that Amendment 83 was popular with voters does not protect it from constitutional scrutiny as to federal rights. "The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts." W.Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624,638 (1943). The Constitution guarantees that all citizens have certain fundamental rights. These rights vest in every person over whom the Constitution has authority and, because they are so important, an individual's fundamental rights "may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." Id. at 638...

Procreation is not a prerequisite in Arkansas for a marriage license. Opposite-sex couples may choose not to have children or they may be infertile, and certainly we are beyond trying to protect the gene pool. A marriage license is a civil document and is not, nor can it be, based upon any particular faith. Same-sex couples are a morally disliked minority and the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages is driven by animus rather than a rational basis. This violates the United States Constitution...

The strength of our nation is in our freedom which includes, among others, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right to marry, the right to bear arms, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, the right of privacy, the right of due process and equal protection, and the right to vote regardless of race or sex. The court is not unmindful of the criticism that judges should not be super legislators. However, the issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority. Our judiciary has failed such groups in the past...

...The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage for no rational basis violates the fundamental right to privacy and equal protection as described in Jegley and Cole, supra. The difference between opposite-sex and same-sex families is within the privacy of their homes.

THEREFORE, THIS COURT HEREBY FINDS the Arkansas constitutional and legislative ban on same-sex marriage through Act 144 of 1997 and Amendment 83 is unconstitutional.

It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.

Judge Christopher Charles Piazza, Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, Second Division, May 9, 2014.

     click here to read entire decision

"There is no evidence that Defendants, the State or its citizens were harmed by the entry of the Court's original order or that they will be harmed by the clarifications contained within the Final Order and Rule 54(b) certification. However, the same cannot be said of the Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite-sex counterparts. A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state. Weighing all factors applicable to analyzing whether a stay should be granted, Defendants' Motion for Immediate Stay is DENIED."

Judge Christopher Charles Piazza, Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, Second Division, May 15, 2014.