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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 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 . . . → Read More: Recap of 5th Circuit hearings

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 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 . . . → Read More: Mississippi marriage case headed to 5th Circuit

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

Having “The Talk” With My Sons

By Sarah Thach

My partner and I are the mothers of three beautiful sons aged 10, 6, and 4. Our youngest two boys are African-American, and my partner, our oldest boy, and I are white. Currently in our country there are so many exciting advances for LGBT marriage equality and so much violence against African-Americans. This juxtaposition is painful. It is amazing to watch the rapid adoption of marriage equality across the land and poignant to see the dramatic shift in popular opinion about LGBT people. And it is frightening to witness African-American boys and men being killed in interactions with law enforcement over and over again throughout our country.

This summer and fall it hurt to see many white friends weigh in on Facebook about Robin Williams’ death and remain silent about Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s deaths. It hurt to hear them discuss the rioting in Ferguson more than the precipitating police killing. It felt as if they did not think these deaths were relevant to their lives. I am guilty of not fully noticing my connectedness too – despite having grown up in a town adjacent to Ferguson, I did not feel fully sucker-punched by Michael Brown’s death until I learned his mother worked in my home town.

When many LGBT youth died – taking their own lives after being bullied about their sexual orientation – Dan Savage spurred a movement telling youth how “it gets better.” I am afraid our country sends the opposite message to African-American boys: as you hit adolescence, others stop seeing how beautiful you are and start seeing you as a menace.

I do not want to have “the talk” with my sons, telling them to be careful of and submissive around police officers and other authority figures. I . . . → Read More: Having “The Talk” With My Sons