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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

Day of statewide action for marriage equality in Mississippi

On August 13, same-sex couples in nine counties across Mississippi will record their out-of-state marriage licenses at their local Chancery Court offices. Organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality, this statewide day of action for marriage equality will involve local couples recording their licenses in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar, Oktibbeha and Pearl River counties.

Meet the couples that will call for rights on Wednesday:

(Jena and Jennifer with their daughter)

(Pamela and Mary)

(Nathan and Paul)

. . . → Read More: Day of statewide action for marriage equality in Mississippi

Winston-Salem could pass same-sex partner benefits policy

CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum speaks to WInston-Salem councilmembers about the domestic partner benefits proposal

On July 15, the city council in Winston-Salem, specifically the Committee on General Government, Housing, and Community Development, discussed a proposal that could add domestic partner benefits to the list of benefits that municipal employees can receive. The committee outlined possible eligibility criteria for benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings to include eligible partners of LGBT city employees.

Because of a statewide ban on marriage equality in North Carolina, LGBT couples across the state don’t have access to many of the basic benefits that opposite-sex marriages offer. A growing patchwork of city-level protections across North Carolina attempts to make up for the difficulties that LGBT people and families face, while the Campaign for Southern Equality pushes forward with a legal challenge to Amendment One that would make marriage available for all.

Winston-Salem residents and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) have been advocating for the passage of this measure for many months and are hopeful that the policy will pass when it goes to a full vote before City Council. Watch a video of the committee meeting, where local activists Brent Morin and Mary Jamis, and CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum testify in favor of the benefits policy. (Discussion of the proposal begins around 40:00.)

“We strongly encourage the city of Winston-Salem to pass a policy that extends domestic partner benefits to municipal employees,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of Campaign for Southern Equality. “At a time when discrimination persists under state laws, it is critical to ensure that LGBT employees are treated fairly and equitably.”

Here are a few highlights from CSE’s white paper on the proposal:

With an estimated . . . → Read More: Winston-Salem should pass same-sex partner benefits policy

Raleigh WE DO action

Same-Sex Couples Call for Marriage Rights on 2nd Anniversary of Amendment One

On May 8 local same-sex couples will apply for marriage licenses at the Wake County Register of Deeds Office. They will be joined by legally-married same-sex couples who will pay $26 to record their out-of-state marriage licenses in order to create a public record of their legal marriage.

Trudy and Justine Price-O’Neil of Wake County are among the couples that will record their Massachusetts marriage license at the Wake County Register of Deeds office. Together for a decade, they are mothers to a two-year-old and are both teachers. Trudy Price O’Neil will be honored as Enloe High School Teacher of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday evening.

“While the federal government recognizes our marriage, it’s important to us that our home state of North Carolina does too,” says Justine Price-O’Neil. “This matters for reasons like state taxes and insurance policies, but also for our little girl to have two legal parents, and so she can know without a doubt that her family is just as valid and important as everyone else’s.”

Trudy and Justine with their daughter

The couples will be joined by family and clergy from across faith traditions, such as Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh and Rev. Doug Long, Trudy and Justine’s pastor at Umstead Park United Church of Christ, who will stand in support of them as they record their license. This action takes place two years to the day since the passage of Amendment One, North Carolina’s Constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.

Join us for a series of events this week as we stand up to Amendment One.

“Every day that Amendment One remains on the books it hurts families like Trudy, . . . → Read More: Raleigh WE DO action