Some state officials refusing to give up the fight against equality


Officials in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Florida have made it clear they are determined to keep fighting against same-sex marriage until the bitter end.

On October 6, the Supreme Court’s historic decision effectively upheld the authority of federal appeals courts to overturn state laws, enacting the freedom to marry immediately in five states and in the near future in six others. Two of those six were South Carolina and Kansas, both of which had previously seen their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by federal judges.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Kansas, has consistently ruled over the last year that same-sex marriage bans are discriminatory and unconstitutional. Regardless, when Judge Kevin Moriarty ordered county clerks to allow same-sex couples to marry on October 8, the state’s Supreme Court quickly issued a stay on the ruling, which remains in place.

Additionally, during a political campaign debate on October 20, Governor Sam Brownback swore to defend the state’s law against marriage equality.

A challenge to Kansas’ ban that had been scheduled for a federal court hearing on October 24 was canceled at the last minute by District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree. According to the Kansas City Star, ACLU attorney Doug Bonney told press that the day before the hearing, Crabtree was informed that Kansas’ written response to the lawsuit was filed so late that the ACLU hadn’t been able to review it.

Marriage equality supporters are remaining hopeful, and Bonney added that Crabtree is “considering whether to reschedule the oral arguments or decide the case based on the parties’ written arguments.”

Even the chairman of the anti-LGBT group National Organization for Marriage, John Eastman, admitted to press that marriage equality in the state is all but inevitable—but still implored officials to fight “until the Supreme Court decides it.”

In South Carolina, attorney general Alan Wilson has said that he intends to keep fighting for the state’s ban on marriage equality until a court specifically overrules it. On October 23, he asked a federal judge to dismiss a challenge to the ban, brought by a same-sex South Carolina couple who legally married in Washington, DC.

Wilson claimed that marital status cases should be heard by state courts rather than federal, and said that he and Governor Nikki Haley “are improperly named as defendants because they have no specific enforcement authority regarding the state’s same-sex marriage provisions,” and argued that the state has no obligation to recognize marriages were preformed elsewhere.

The first challenge to Montana’s ban has yet to be heard in court, but attorney general Tim Fox intends to fight for it. The Missoula Independent noted that in January 2014, the first-term Republican signed a brief in support of Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage, which “offered a litany of reasons why marriage equality is detrimental to society.”

According to Freedom to Marry, a hearing has been scheduled for November 20 at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. On October 15, the organization filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, “asking the judge to rule in line with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

On October 7, both Nevada and Idaho’s bans on marriage quality were struck down in a unanimous decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals—which also has jurisdiction over Montana.

As such, it can be surmised that barring further Supreme Court actions, the legality of same-sex marriage in Montana will closely mirror that of Idaho, if Fox remains dedicated to fighting the inevitable. Idaho officials requested and were granted an emergency hold against the 9th Circuit Court’s decision on October 8, but their efforts only gave same-sex couples another week to plan their ceremonies—at 9:00 am on October 15, marriage equality was enacted in the state.

NBC Montana also reported that unlike in Idaho, anti-equality groups in Montana don’t have the support of their governor.

When asked for comment, Gov. Steve Bullock said an email, “The time has come for our state to recognize and celebrate—not discriminate against—two people who love one another, are committed to each other, and want to spend their lives together.”

In Florida, attorney general Pam Bondi announced on the afternoon of October 24 that she had filed to extend the stay on the state’s most recent ruling against marriage equality, only hours before the 11:59 pm deadline.

Whether or not the extension is granted is up to US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, who ruled on August 21 that the voter-approved 2008 ban on recognizing or performing same-sex marriages is in violation of the 14th Amendment.

The case has yet to be heard in federal appeals court, but Bondi’s office said it’s pending at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

ABC 7 reported that Bondi’s office released a memo that read in part, “In a continuation of the effort to maintain uniformity and order throughout Florida until final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage, the motion filed today asks that the Court continue the stay until the federal appeals court can review the decision.”

Newlywed John Strutenski, who just married his partner Sky, disagreed with the move. He told ABC 7, “There’s no reason to fight it and put taxpayer dollars at work for something that is going to go anyway.”


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