Entries in Same Sex Marriage (9)


Maine Kicks Off Same-Sex Marriages on Saturday

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Maine) -- Same-sex couples in Maine are heading to city halls across the state on Saturday to say "I do" on the first day the state's new gay marriage law goes into effect.

At the clerk's office in Portland, five couples got married on the spot at a special midnight celebration.

Beth Allen with Equality Maine said, “There are some couples that have been waiting not just months and years, but decades to be able to get their license, to get married and to have their relationship recognized here in Maine.”

Maine voters approved gay marriage in November. Washington state and Maryland also approved gay marriage in this past election.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prop 8 Headed to the Supreme Court

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court in California has denied a petition to have Prop 8—the 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman—further reviewed by a larger panel of judges.  Tuesday’s filing means that the case is headed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  

In February, the majority of a three judge panel sitting on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Prop 8 ruling that the initiative “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” The court ruled on narrow grounds specific to California and Proposition 8. It did not find a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry.

Supporters of Prop 8 had asked for “en banc” review of the case, which would have meant that the Chief Judge of the circuit along with 10 randomly selected judges would have mooted their colleagues’ decision and started anew. But in a filing Tuesday the court said that a majority of judges had voted to deny the petition.

The court stayed the three judge ruling pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Today’s order is yet another federal court victory for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in California and around the nation,” said Chad Griffin, the Co-founder of The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that brought the challenge to Prop 8.

“This is a great step forward towards the day when everyone will be able to marry the person they love” said AFER attorney David Boies.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for, the official proponents of Prop 8, said his group will appeal the case to the Supreme Court. “Perhaps the most positive news from today’s decision is that the court has stayed the decision up to and including the time that the United States Supreme Court finally decides this case. We will promptly file our appeal to the nation’s highest court and look forward to a positive outcome on behalf of the millions of Californians who believe in traditional marriage,” Pugno said in a statement.

Three 9th Circuit judges -- Carlos T. Bea, Jay S. Bybee and Diarmuid Fionntain O’Scannlain -- wrote separately Tuesday arguing that a larger panel of the court should have taken  up the case. In their dissent, the judges referenced President Obama’s recent interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts in which he said he personally supports same sex marriage.

“A few weeks ago, subsequent to oral argument in this case, the President of the United States ignited a media firestorm by announcing that he supports same sex marriage as a policy matter. Drawing less attention, however, were his comments that the Constitution left this matter to the States and that one of the things that he’d like to see is 'that the conversation continue in a respectful way.’ Today our court has silenced any such respectful conversation.”

Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins, who authored the three judge panel decision, wrote separately to address the dissent. “We are puzzled by our dissenting colleagues’ unusual reliance on the President’s views regarding the Constitution, especially as the President did not discuss the narrow issue that we decided in our opinion,” they wrote. They stressed that in their opinion they had ruled narrowly that under the particular circumstances relating to California’s Prop 8, the measure was invalid.

“We did not resolve the fundamental question that both sides asked us to: whether the Constitution prohibits the states from banning same-sex marriage. That question may be decided in the near future, but if so, it should be in some other case, at some other time,” they said.

Tuesday’s ruling comes a week after a federal appeals court in Boston struck down a key provision of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In that case, legally married same sex couples argue that the federal government is denying them benefits available to opposite sex couples.

The Supreme Court will most likely consider both the PROP 8 case and the DOMA cases next term.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Same-Sex Couples Fight to Divorce

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Same-sex couples who have fought so long for the right to marry are finding they also need to fight for the right to divorce.

It’s a well-known fact that half of marriages will end in divorce. And with six states and the District of Columbia allowing same-sex marriage, it’s no surprise that same-sex couples, too, would at times seek divorce.

But for some, like Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan, who were married in California in 2008, divorce is hard to come by.

Maryland’s highest court is hearing arguments Friday on the precedent-setting case to determine if same-sex marriages granted in other states can be dissolved in one where the marriage is not recognized.

Granting divorce to same-sex couples has been an inconsistent practice within the state, lawyers involved in Friday’s case said. Though they believe judges have granted about a half a dozen divorces for gay couples, their clients, Port and Cowan, and at least one other couple were recently denied that.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco and one of the attorneys representing Port, said divorces “shouldn’t depend on what judge you get.”

Jana Singer, professor of law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law who is not involved in the case, believes the appeals court took this case “to resolve this inconsistency,” she said. ” When the Court of Appeals rules in this case there will be a consistent rule in Maryland about recognition of same-sex marriages validly contracted in other states.”

The couple first requested a dissolution of their marriage and were denied in 2010 by a Maryland judge based on the fact that women’s marriage is not legal in the state.

“The court finds that to recognize the alleged marriage would be contrary to the public policy of Maryland,” Prince George’s County Judge A. Michael Chapdelaine wrote in a two-page opinion.

Lawyers for the women argue that Maryland has long recognized marriages entered into in other states, even if the state itself has barred those marriages. For example, Maryland law bars an uncle and a niece from marrying, but the state will recognize that marriage if it legally occurred in another state.

Singer explains this saying the court applies what is known as the Comity law.

“Even where somebody couldn’t get married in Maryland, if they validly got married somewhere else Maryland will recognize their marriage,” she said.

She added that a provision within the law of Comity that states it is invalid if the ruling “would be contrary to receiving state strong public policy” could have been the basis for Chapdelain’s decision.

The state also has no express prohibition banning the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, lawyers argued before the seven-member appellate court Friday.

“There have been bills introduced in Maryland,” Minter said during the Friday hearing, referring to proposed Maryland stature that would not recognize a marriage when it was legally entered elsewhere.  "Legislature has repeatedly rejected those…”

“Is this marriage entitled to recognition?” Minter asked. “Yes, as long as the marriage was validly entered in another jurisdiction … it's exactly as though the marriage has been entered in Maryland.”

About a year and half ago Maryland’s attorney general looked at the question of marriage validity. In his review of Maryland law he said the state should recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages that were valid where they were entered into.  The attorney general’s ruling has been applied to state agencies, granting same-sex couples state benefits.

Maryland joins the ranks of Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas and Rhode Island where judges have denied gay couples divorces.

Responding to those cases, California and the District of Columbia recently passed laws allowing gay couples married in their jurisdictions to divorce there if their home state will not dissolve the marriage.

Regardless of the decision made by the high court, under a law passed this year, Port and Cowan and other same-sex couples, will only have to wait until January 2013 for same-sex weddings, and by extension divorces, to be legal. Opponents of the new law, however, are seeking to overturn it in a potential voter referendum.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Same-Sex Couple Married in California Getting Divorced

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- An interesting sign of the times: the lesbian couple whose legal struggle helped pave the way for gay marriage in California is getting divorced.

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson were the original plaintiffs in the California Supreme Court case (argued by attorney Gloria Allred) that opened the doors to lesbian and gay marriage in the nation’s most populous state. They appeared in an interview with Allred for ABC News.

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In June 2008, Tyler and Olson were the first same-sex couple to wed in Los Angeles County.

During the campaign over Proposition 8 -- the voter-approved initiative that ultimately overturned the court’s decision and banned gay marriage -- Olson and Tyler appeared in campaign ads asking the voters to not “take our marriage away.”

But now their marriage is apparently on the rocks. While they have plenty of company -- in Southern California, 75 percent of all marriages end in divorce -- the timing is kind of awkward. A federal appeals court in California on Tuesday struck down Proposition 8, the controversial ballot measure, passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote, that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington State Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Washington state is one step closer towards becoming the seventh state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday evening, the state Senate voted 28 to 21 to pass a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Reacting to the news, Sen. Ed Murray, an openly gay Democrat who sponsored the measure, said, "There aren't words to describe this.  I'm very excited."

The measure now moves onto the House, where it's also expected to be approved, before heading to Gov. Chris Gregoire's desk.  The governor has already expressed her support of the bill and intends to sign it into law.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hundreds of Same-Sex Couples to Wed in New York State

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- Hundreds of same-sex couples in New York are getting married on Sunday, the first day that New Yorkers are allowed to legally wed.

The first marriage ceremony was performed at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office Sunday morning. Phyllis Siegel, 75, and Connie Kopelov, 85, who have already been together for 20 years, tied the knot.

Gay marriage became officially legal in New York at midnight. New York is the largest state to permit same-sex marriage.

Protests against same-sex marriage have been planned across the state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Navy Scraps Rules on Gay Marriages After GOP Protest

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Navy has abruptly reversed course on new guidelines that would have eventually allowed same-sex couples to wed on its bases -- with Navy chaplains performing the ceremony -- after "don't ask, don't tell" is officially repealed.

In a memo released late Tuesday, chief Navy chaplain Mark Tidd said his previous instructions, part of the military's ongoing effort to revise its policies before lifting the ban on openly gay service members, were "suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination."

A Navy spokesman declined to elaborate on reasons for the move. But it follows mounting pressure from a group of 63 congressional Republicans who objected to the policy change in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus late last week.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Calif., who is leading the opposition, plans to introduce an amendment to a House armed services bill that would bar Pentagon employees -- or facilities -- from being used for marriage ceremonies not recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Navy had said allowing gay service members to exchange vows in base chapels and other places used to celebrate marriage was consistent with federal law so long as the ceremonies occurred in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

"Legal counsel has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation neutral," Tidd wrote in a memo April 13.

Navy chaplains could also officiate in marriage ceremonies if they're consistent with their religious beliefs and comply with state and local laws in which they are performed, he said.

How to handle same-sex marriages by service members is one of several issues the Pentagon is weighing as it prepares to put in place a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which President Obama signed into law in December. The policy is still in effect until 60 days after Obama and the Pentagon certify the armed forces are ready for the change.

Officials expect certification could happen as soon as this summer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hawaii Senate Passes Bill to Legalize Civil Unions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HONOLULU) -- Hawaii's Senate passed a measure Wednesday to make civil unions legal in the state.

The Senate voted 18-5 in favor of the bill, which will now go to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk.  The governor is expected to sign the bill into action within 10 legislative days.

Once signed, civil unions will become legal in Hawaii starting Jan. 1, 2012.

After the bill was passed, Abercrombie issued a statement, saying, "I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding civil unions in Hawaii.  This has been an emotional process for everyone involved, but that process is now ended.  Everyone has been heard; all points of view respected."

"For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii," the governor added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prop 8 Sponsors Call for Disqualification of Judge  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Lawyers for the sponsors of Proposition 8 -- California’s ban on same-sex marriage -- filed a motion Wednesday night to have Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, one of the three Ninth Circuit judges set to hear an appeal of the case, disqualified because Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, serves as the executive director of the ACLU in Southern California.

On Monday, the appeals court is set to hear a constitutional challenge to the controversial ballot measure. Last summer, a district court judge struck it down.

In a motion for disqualification, the lawyers point out that Ripston not only served for the ACLU which filed an amicus brief in the case, but she also met with plaintiff’s lawyers.

According to the brief, “The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. His wife and the organization she leads have not only been active in seeking to redefine marriage in California and active in opposition to Proposition 8, but they have been active participants in this very lawsuit: Plaintiffs’ attorneys consulted with Ms. Ripston before filing suit.”

Last February, the ACLU announced that Ms. Ripston was retiring effective February 2011.

Reinhardt, who was nominated to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, is set to hear the case with two other judges, N. Randy Smith, a George W. Bush nominee, and Michael Daly Hawkins, a Clinton nominee.

The filing comes after conservatives have questioned Reinhardt’s ability to remain objective in the case. Ed Whelan of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center has written, “How is it possible that Reinhardt’s impartiality in this case couldn’t reasonably be questioned when his wife took part in confidential discussions with plaintiffs’ lawyers over whether they should pursue the case?”

Judge Reinhardt has denied the  motion to disqualify him from Monday’s Prop 8 trial, writing, "For reasons that I shall provide in a memorandum to be filed in due course, I am certain that a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would [not] conclude that [my] impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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