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Mobile couples denied marriage license

Imagine trying to plan a wedding, only to find out that your right to marry has been placed in limbo.

That’s exactly what happened to two couples in Mobile County, Alabama last week after the Alabama Supreme Court effectively stopped local officials Alabama from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The one county that wasn’t covered in their order was Mobile County, but Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis refused to issue marriage licenses. Starting the day after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling he has denied licenses to both gay and straight couples.

On Friday, March 6 two couples – Julie & Dottie and April & Molly – went to pick up marriage licenses in Mobile County. They weren’t served.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling is a direct challenge to several orders in favor of marriage equality by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade. Both the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay Granade’s original order, and marriage equality was supposed to go into effect statewide on February 9.

The state Supreme Court’s order halting marriages for gay couples came as a surprise to advocates, who see the move as violating the supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution, which delineates that state judges are bound by the U.S. Constitution. Since it was interpreted that the Constitution guarantees marriage rights for same-sex couples in a federal jurisdiction covering Alabama, it follows that state judges and other officials must comply with that interpretation.

“Whenever state law conflicts with federal law, federal law wins,” David Kennedy, one of the attorneys in the case that struck down the marriage ban, told

A group of legal organizations led by National Center for Lesbian Rights has petitioned to amend a federal lawsuit, making it class action. . . . → Read More: Mobile couples denied marriage license

Amicus brief addresses political powerlessness of gay Southerners

amicus graphic

An amicus brief filed today by the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Equality Federation calls for the U.S. Supreme Court to act quickly to ensure the freedom to marry across the nation. The brief focuses on the reality that gay and lesbian Southerners do not yet possess the political power to achieve equality through the legislative process, despite growing public support for marriage equality.

Unfolding developments in Alabama demonstrate the need for swift action from the Supreme Court as detailed in the brief:

“On March 3, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court – comprised of elected judges – defied a federal court order and halted the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples with a clear invitation to this Court: ‘we defer only to the holdings of the United States Supreme Court and our own interpretations of federal law.’”

“Despite growing public support for legal rights, gay people – especially here in the South – remain politically powerless to change discriminatory state laws. The Supreme Court should not – and constitutionally cannot – wait for political will to match the private courage of gay people to protect the freedom to marry of all Americans,” says Meghann Burke, an attorney at Brazil & Burke and CSE’s Legal Team Leader.

The brief was authored by a legal team that includes attorneys from: Brazil & Burke, P.A., based in Asheville, NC; Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., based in Miami, FL; Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, based in Charlotte, NC; and McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, MS.

A clear majority of Americans support marriage equality. Across the South, which is home to one third of all LGBT Americans, support continues to grow, particularly among those under age 30. For example, 58 percent of Mississippi voters under the age of 30 support . . . → Read More: Amicus brief addresses political powerlessness of gay Southerners

Winston-Salem Recognizes LGBT Employees' Marriages Through New Policy

The City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina has announced a new policy to recognize the legal out-of-state marriage licenses of LGBT city employees and extend standard employee benefits to their families. Winston-Salem is believed to be the first municipality in North Carolina to take this step.

Read more from the Winston-Salem Journal.

“We applaud the City of Winston-Salem for taking the step to recognize all employees’ marriages as equal. We have been honored, through our Hometown Organizing Project, to work with a wonderful team of local advocates to make this policy change a reality. We also continue to advocate for the city to implement a short-term domestic partner benefits policy that addresses the disparity in benefits for couples who cannot afford to travel and get married in another state.” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of North Carolina-based Campaign for Southern Equality.

Read the Campaign for Southern Equality’s memo on why the proposed domestic partner benefits policy is also important, as we wait for marriage equality to be implemented in all 50 states.

The introduction of this policy was spearheaded by local advocates who testified before the city council’s Committee on Community Development, Housing and General Government last month. Council members were considering extending benefits to unmarried domestic partners of city employees, but that proposal has not yet moved forward.

Definitive 2013 CSE Round Up

CSE’s year in video and images! Thank you for being with us every step of the way in 2013. None of this would be possible without your belief that LGBT people and allies in the South can help our country realize the promises of equality.

1) On January 2nd, five LGBT couples applied for marriage licenses in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as part of the WE DO Campaign. These brave couples took this act, knowing they would be denied licenses, as a show of love in the face of discriminatory laws that relegate LGBT to second-class citizen status in Mississippi. Below, Rolanda and Dawn at the counter applying for a license.

2) From January 2-17, CSE traveled across seven Southern states (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia) to stand with 37 LGBT couples as they applied for marriage licenses in their hometowns. Matt and Raymie on their farm in White Pine, Tennessee applied for a license in Hamlin County.

3) Tim and Mark were married on January 17th in Washington, D.C. after being together for 20 years. Just three days before, Tim and Mark were denied a marriage license in their hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. as part of the WE DO Campaign.

. . . → Read More: Definitive 2013 CSE Round Up

Going the distance with CSE

Amy Evans is a playwright from North Carolina who lives in New York City and is an incredible champion of CSE’s work as an ally. On Sunday, she’s literally going the extra mile – 26.2 in fact! – by running the New York City Marathon to raise funds for CSE. Amy’s already raised more than $1,700 and is nearing her goal of $2,620. Pushing for full LGBT equality in the South is its own kind of marathon and we’re so inspired by folks like Amy who are stepping up.Here’s more from Amy about why she’s running. Join us in cheering her on! – Jasmine

Amy Evans

I got a really nice message from a friend who said that running a marathon is a brave thing to do. On my run this morning – an easy pace in Central Park, crisp blue sky, birds, squirrels, all that was missing was Bambi – itoccurred to me that there is nothing brave at all about marathoning. Vain, maybe. Self-indulgent by all means. But brave? About as brave as buying new lipstick.

Here’s brave: Walking into a county courthouse in the South with your life partner and requesting a marriage license, knowing the odds are stacked against you and that you’ll probably be denied. And then doing it again. And again. And again. That takes courage. But more than courage, it takes commitment, community, and a firm belief that we have the power to end injustice if we choose to. That’s what the Campaign for Southern Equality has been up to lately in the state of North Carolina. And at the same time they’re looking now for a local elected official in the South who openly shares the view that laws disenfranchising LGBT folks need to be stricken from the books . . . → Read More: Going the distance with CSE