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Supreme Court will hear 4 marriage equality cases

The Supreme Court will hear appeals in all four of the 6th Circuit marriage cases, where the appeals court ruled that states could exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage.

The Supreme Court will hear appeals in all four of the 6th Circuit marriage cases, where the appeals court ruled that states could exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage.

The US Supreme Court today announced that they would review the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings in marriage equality cases from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.

This means that the nation’s highest court will decide the question that lower courts have been answering for the last few years: Do loving same-sex couples enjoy a fundamental right to marry under the Constitution?

We believe they do, and federal judges in the cases we’ve coordinated in North Carolina and Mississippi agree with us. It’s clear that no valid legal arguments exist to uphold bans on same-sex marriage, and the right to marry should belong to loving couples no matter what state they live in.

As we work for LGBT equality across the South, we see the continued harms that families suffer because of discriminatory marriage laws. States where LGBT people can’t marry the person they love are subjecting their citizens to second-class status. Every day that couples have to wait for fairness is a day too long.

Recap of 5th Circuit hearings

At 4:30 this morning, in the dark of an unusually cold New Orleans morning, people started lining up in front of the federal courthouse where the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals would hear arguments in marriage equality cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

We were very honored to sit in a courtroom full of supporters from across Mississippi who had driven in to attend the hearing.

As we listened to all three arguments, it once again became apparent that no valid legal arguments exist to defend state bans on same-sex marriage.

For a great recap of today’s hearing please read Chris Geidner’s article, “Federal Appeal Court Posied to Strike Down Three Southern States’ Same-Sex Marriage Bans.”

From Geidner’s article:

After three hours of arguments, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared poised to strike down bans on same-sex couples’ marriages in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — joining all but one of the other appellate courts to consider the issue.

If the court upholds the lower court decisions striking down the Mississippi and Texas bans and reverses the trial court decision upholding Louisiana’s ban, it could have the effect of bringing marriage equality to three deep South states — and it could come before the Supreme Court acts on pending marriage cases.

Our role in this case has been to represent the thousands of same-sex couples in Mississippi who deserve the freedom to marry in their home state. We’re grateful to the legal team in this case, led by Roberta Kaplan and her colleagues at Paul Weiss, the plaintiff couples – Carla and Joce, and Andrea and Becky – and everyone across Mississippi who is working for LGBT equality. And we’re grateful to our friends in Louisiana and Texas who have worked tirelessly in their cases.

We’re hopeful that very soon, a decision by the 5th Circuit in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant will grant Mississippi couples the freedom to marry. That day can’t come soon enough.

Mississippi marriage case headed to 5th Circuit

At 10 a.m. on January 9, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, the case that struck down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage in a November 25, 2014 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves. The same Fifth Circuit panel will also hear the De Leon and Robicheaux marriage equality cases from Texas and Louisiana, respectively, on the morning of January 9. Here’s what you need to know about the three cases.

At approximately 12:00 p.m., a joint press conference with attorneys and plaintiffs from all three cases will take place on the steps of the Fifth Circuit federal courthouse (John Minor Wisdom Court of Appeals Building, 600 Camp Street in New Orleans).

“We very much look forward to presenting our arguments to the judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We are so honored to be representing our clients in this case and so pleased that the voices of gay of Mississippians will be heard,” says Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

(Lead attorney Roberta Kaplan speaks at a press conference after the November 12 hearing flanked by the plaintiff couples.)

Lead attorney Roberta Kaplan speaks at a press conference after the November 12 hearing in Jackson, Mississippi, flanked by the plaintiff couples.

Currently, 36 states allow same-sex couples to marry. Within the South, couples can marry in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant challenges the constitutionality of marriage laws in Mississippi that ban marriage between same-sex couples and deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. The lawsuit was filed on October 20, 2014, on behalf of two same-sex couples – Andrea Sanders and Rebecca (Becky) Bickett, and Jocelyn (Joce) Pritchett and Carla Webb – and the Campaign for Southern Equality, which represents its members across Mississippi.

“We are hopeful that the Fifth Circuit will find that LGBT Mississippi families should be able to conduct their lives knowing that a safety net of legal protections surrounds them,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. The Campaign for Southern Equality has been advocating for LGBT equality across Mississippi since 2012 and is conducting a public education campaign to accompany the case.

An estimated 3,484 same-sex couples live across Mississippi, with 26 percent of them raising children. The plaintiff couples are both parents to young children.

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs is Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.  Plaintiffs are also represented by Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, and Dale Carpenter, a professor of civil rights and civil liberties law at the University of Minnesota Law School. Kaplan was lead counsel in United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that struck down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and paved the way to marriage equality from coast to coast.

LGBT Life in Mississippi:

  • An estimated 3,484 same-sex couples live in Mississippi according to 2010 Census Data;
  • Mississippi has the highest rate nationally of LGBT couples raising children at 26 percent;
  • LGBT people in Mississippi are more likely to live in poverty than heterosexual counterparts;
  • Public support for marriage equality in Mississippi is growing. Among Mississippi residents under age 30, 58 percent support marriage equality according to a 2013 poll;
  • Under current state laws, you can be fired simply for being gay in Mississippi.


What you need to know about the Fifth Circuit marriage cases

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

On Friday, January 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments in three separate marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

While the cases are being argued on the same day, they haven’t been combined like in other circuits. Between the three cases, almost every imaginable argument in favor of marriage equality will be made.

A three-judge panel will hear the appeals, with each side arguing for thirty minutes. The Fifth Circuit is a historically conservative court, and the panel of justices – Patrick Higginbotham, James Graves, Jr. and Jerry Smith – has been called “typical” by a legal expert. It is impossible and unproductive to speculate how the judges will rule, but we know they will be guided by the Texas and Mississippi rulings in favor of marriage equality (which share the company of some 40 other pro-equality rulings in the last year and a half). We also know they’ll be considering the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which said that the federal Defense of Marriage Act “demeans” same-sex couples and “humiliates” their children.


Robicheaux v. Caldwell was originally filed in 2013 under a different name by couples Jonathan and Derek Penton-Robicheaux, and Courtney and Nadine Blanchard, who were both legally married in Iowa. Early in 2014, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman consolidated their case with another marriage equality case, expanding the issue to include not only recognizing out-of-state marriages, but also considering whether to require Louisiana to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On September 3, 2014, Judge Feldman became the first federal judge since Windsor to rule that a state’s ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional. Among other things, he said that the state had an interest in regulating the plaintiffs’ “lifestyle choice,” and that . . . → Read More: What you need to know about the Fifth Circuit marriage cases

Definitive 2014 Campaign for Southern Equality Round Up

The Campaign for Southern Equality’s year in video and images! It was an amazing year for LGBT rights across the South.

1) Same-sex couples all across North Carolina recorded their out-of-state marriage licenses at their local Register of Deeds office as an act of protest against Amendment One.

Last summer after 32 years together, Kathryn and Elizabeth, were married in Maryland.

2) Our friends at Gender Benders drove a truck full of supplies up from South Carolina – clothing, sheets, towels and much more – to the Be Loved House. Be Loved House is the only LGBT inclusive homeless shelter in Asheville, North Carolina.

3) Blue Cross of NC, the largest health care provider in the state, announced they will offer family plans to same-sex married couples and domestic partners! Susan Wilson, pictured on the right with her wife Judy, for playing a crucial role behind the scenes in bringing about this change.

4) CSE gathered for a Family Reunion in Weaverville, NC. State Senator Van Duyn (middle-right, rocking a CSE baseball style T-shirt) with members of the Campaign for Southern Equality Team – Jasmine, baby Cal, Carmen, and Meghann.

. . . → Read More: Definitive 2014 Campaign for Southern Equality Round Up