Constitutional Law and Civil Rights

Skirmishes In States Over Same-Sex Marriage

SKIRMISHES IN STATES OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Last week was a busy one for same-sex marriage, with significant developments on the issue in multiple states.

Some of the biggest news came out of Nevada, where Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) announced the state was ceasing its defense of its 2002 ban on gay marriage in federal court.

"The state's argument cannot withstand legal scrutiny," Masto stated in a motion filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking to withdraw the state's legal argument against same-sex marriage in a case appealed to the court by an LGBT legal advocacy group, Lambda Legal, after a federal judge upheld the state's ban in 2012

Sandoval supported that move.

"Based upon the advice of the attorney general's office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court," a spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement.

In Ohio, four married same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit last week seeking state recognition of their marriages on birth certificates. Same-sex couples in the state recently earned the right in federal court to be recognized on death certificates.

A coalition of religious groups, meanwhile, filed an amicus brief last week asking the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah that have been declared unconstitutional by federal judges in each state.

"Our support for traditional marriage stands on the affirmative belief that husband-wife marriage complements our human natures as male and female, promotes responsible procreation, and provides the best environment for children," stated the brief, filed jointly by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

In action last week outside the courts, an Indiana Senate committee voted 8 to 4 along party lines to send a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to the full Senate for a vote. The state's House removed a provision from the measure that would also have banned civil unions before passing it and sending it on to the Senate. The Senate could restore that provision. If both chambers ultimately approve the measure, it would have to be approved by the Legislature again next year, before going to voters. (LOS ANGELES TIMES)

— Compiled by KOREY CLARK

SOCIAL POLICY: A federal judge rules that KENTUCKY must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II overturns a state law banning recognition of those unions. He concluded that the government may define marriage and attach benefits to it, but cannot "impose a traditional or faith-based limitation" without a sufficient justification for it." Bluegrass state officials have not indicated if they will appeal (WASHINGON POST). • The KANSAS House approves HB 2453, which would ban civil claims of discrimination against groups citing religious freedom. It would also prohibit the government from forcing religious groups to perform or recognize a marriage or civil union. The measure moves to the Senate (LAWRENCE JOURNAL WORLD). • A federal court rules that VIRGINIA's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of United States District Court for the Eastern District overturns a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage adopted by Old Dominion voters in 2006. It also requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages that were carried out legally in other states. The ruling was stayed pending an appeal (NEW YORK TIMES).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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