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Closed for Business: The Harmful Impact of Marriage License Office Closures in Alabama

Thirteen counties across Alabama have stopped issuing marriage licenses in direct response to federal court rulings recognizing that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. As a result, opposite-sex couples are also being denied the ability to receive a marriage license in their home counties. Today, the Campaign for Southern Equality has published a memo about the impact of these closures titled “Closed for Business: The Harmful Impact of Marriage License Office Closures in Alabama.” The memo can be found at: http://bit.ly/1glVetc

From the memo:

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry.  On July 1, Federal District Judge Callie Granade ruled that all probate judges in the Alabama must immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of today, 49 of Alabama’s 67 counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, 13 have shuttered their marriage license offices, and five report that they will issue to same-sex couples but have not yet done so.

The 13 counties that have stopped issuing licenses are home to an estimated 464 same-sex couples, 20% of which are raising children. A total of 441,437 people live within the impacted counties and a majority of these counties have poverty rates exceeding the state average of 18.6%.

“These closures are causing unnecessary complications and burdens for any couple – gay or straight – who seeks to marry in their home county. Why should a couple have to drive for over an hour to get a marriage license? What if a couple can’t marry because they have an unreliable car, or they can’t get the time off work? We urge all counties in Alabama to immediately begin issuing licenses to same-sex and opposite-sex couples,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of CSE.

Read the memo here: http://bit.ly/1glVetc

In New Legal Filings, Attorneys Call for Immediate Start of Same-Sex Marriages in Mississippi

Attorneys in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, the lawsuit that struck down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, filed a motion on Friday afternoon with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling recognizing marriage equality. While some same-sex couples have already married today in Mississippi, the state’s attorney general has issued instructions that clerks cannot issues licenses until the stay is lifted.

“It is now time for the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell to be followed throughout this great nation. We are confident that state officials in Mississippi will honor the oath they swore to uphold the Constitution and will facilitate the marriages of gay and lesbian couples throughout Mississippi,” says Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

At 10 a.m. this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry extends to same-sex couples in all 50 states. By mid-day, same-sex couples were receiving marriage licenses at the Forrest County Circuit Clerk’s Office located in Hattiesburg; Forrest County is no longer issuing licenses however.

This afternoon, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is not immediately effective in Mississippi. It will become effective in Mississippi, and circuit clerks will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses, when the 5th Circuit lifts the stay of Judge Reeves’ order.”

The new legal filings can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1Kguvcy

“Same-sex couples in Mississippi cannot wait another day for the legal rights that they are now guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Affirms That Same-Sex Couples Have a Constitutional Right to Marry

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples in all 50 states have a constitutional right to marry.

“What a glorious day for this great country. By recognizing once and for all that the Constitution respects the dignity of all Americans, gay or straight, the Supreme Court has once again honored the core American values of equal protection and due process of law. “We are confident that Mississippi officials statewide will honor their constitutional duties and will move quickly to begin issuing marriage licenses to our clients Andrea Sanders and Becky Bickett and to the many other Mississippians who have waited so long to protect their families by marrying the person who they love,”‎ said Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

Kaplan has been lead counsel in the Mississippi District Court declared that state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, and United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and laid the foundation for today’s ruling.

“LGBT families have always been equal in the eyes of God but now, finally, they are also equal under the law, with a safety net of legal protections surrounding them. With great joy, we expect that marriages will begin immediately in Mississippi and Alabama,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. Through this landmark decision, the Court has signaled that policies that treat LGBT people as second-class citizens do not fulfill the American promise of equal protection under the law and cannot stand.”

Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant challenged the constitutionality of marriage laws in Mississippi that banned 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. On November 25, 2014 Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a ruling in the case, finding that the state law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the issue of marriage equality, Judge Reeves ruling will now go into effect.

As part of its work across the South, 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.

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 29 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;
  • Despite the ruling today from the U.S. Supreme Court, under current state laws, you can be fired simply for being gay in Mississippi.

 

LGBT-friendly gathering in Madison County, NC

By Joey Lopez, Campaign for Southern Equality

Just along the French Broad River, Marshall is a small town of less that 900 tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the middle of Marshall’s downtown stretch stands the Madison County Courthouse, a quaint domed top building with majestic white columns in front. On Sunday, June 7, just across the street from the courthouse about 70 people gathered at Good Stuff, a local eatery and gathering place, for an ice cream social hosted by the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit and CSE.

(Downtown Marshall, NC)

Our hope for the night was simple: to create an opportunity for Madison county LGBT people and their allies to gather, build community and enjoy each others company. By 7 p.m. there were at least 50 people connecting with their neighbors. Through out the night, folks continued to show up for the celebration with live music by Sarah Tucker and it was not long before we were scraping the bottom of the ice creams tubs. Between songs, folks shared their experiences of living in the county – raising a family as lesbian couple, the experience of a sibling’s coming out, parenting a gay son and marching to the Register of Deeds counter to request a marriage license before marriage equality was law in North Carolina.

One of the storytellers, Beth, inspired me with her words: “Every conversation about LGBT life plants a seed.” Growing up in one of North Carolina’s smaller towns, this stuck with me. It made me think about my mom and the seeds she plants every single day. The stories offered a shared history of love, support and hope from generations of LGBT people, their friends and family from across the county. This event was an opportunity for . . . → Read More: LGBT-friendly gathering in Madison County, NC

Wave of anti-LGBT proposals across the South dead as legislatures adjourn

At least 40 anti-LGBT bills have been defeated, while only two passed in Southern states this year.

LGBT advocates listen to a prayer before marching to the Capitol at the Moral Monday march in Raleigh.

By Jarod Keith

As state legislatures across the South adjourn, LGBT advocates can be mostly satisfied with the defeat of 40 anti-LGBT bills. Almost every anti-LGBT proposal was defeated or stalled, with the notable exceptions of Senate Bill 202 in Arkansas and Senate Bill 2 in North Carolina. These discriminatory proposals covered many aspects of LGBT life – allowing officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples, letting adoption agencies discriminate against LGBT families, fining transgender people for using the right restroom and limiting the ability of city governments to protect LGBT residents.

Much of the anti-LGBT legislation was introduced in response to advances in marriage equality – in 2014 several Southern states were added to the growing list of states where same-sex marriage is legal, and lawmakers across the South have been preparing for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue nationwide this month. Nationally – and across the South – support for legal recognition of same-sex couples is at a record high, and polls in several Southern states show majority support for marriage equality.

In Texas alone, more than 20 anti-LGBT bills on Equality Texas’s agenda never made it to the governor’s desk. The legislation ranged from ridiculous to outright mean. The Texas Freedom Network, the ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas and the Human Rights Campaign formed a strong coalition against the bills, which included proposals to defund the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples and criminalize the use of restrooms by transgender people. By organizing faith groups, . . . → Read More: Wave of anti-LGBT proposals across the South dead as legislatures adjourn