The Changing Tide of Gay Rights



A Year we prepared for St. Pete Pride... 

The United States Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5:4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy issuing the deciding opinion as he had with Romer v. Evans in 1996 (striking down Colorado’s ban on all anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people) and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 (striking down state sodomy statutes). In the generations to come, people will honor Justice Kennedy for “getting it” and protecting fundamental constitutional rights against the desire of voters to relegate gay people to second-class status.

“DOMA . . . tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple . . . . And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. . . . Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. . . . DOMA also brings financial harm to children of same-sex couples. It raises the cost of health care for families . . . And it denies or reduces benefits to families upon the loss of a spouse and parent.”

Since the Windsor decision, twelve federal district courts in Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana ,Idaho, and Wisconsin have struck down at least some portion of the states’ bans against same-sex marriage. Although many of the federal decisions are “on hold” while the federal courts of appeals consider the issues, nineteen states plus Washington DC recognize same-sex marriage: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington DC. In Florida, six lawsuits are pending that challenge Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage (two in federal court and four in state courts, including a lawsuit to permit a same-sex married couple to divorce).

Lest you think that bans on same-sex marriage have been relegated to the garbage heap, think again. Six different federal courts of appeals must now review the federal decisions. It is likely that one or more of those courts will say that state voters have the right to exclude gay people from the fundamental right to marry. It is likely that this issue will rise again to the United States Supreme Court in 2015 or 2016.

What will happen in the Supreme Court? We know that four out of nine justices stand ready to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. Who will be a justice on the Supreme Court in 2015 or 2016? That depends on whether a current justice retires or dies. If a current justice retires or dies, the United States Senate will decide who can take his or her place. President Obama’s nomination must be approved by the Senate.

Although very important, marriage equality isn’t everything. Single and coupled members of our community require legal advice and representation on many matters. At Law Firm, PLLC, I can help with many of them. If I cannot help on your specific matter, I can often recommend someone who can.

As we prepare for the St. Pete Pride parade and street festival, we have much to celebrate and many reasons to be grateful. Please visit the booth at Pride, say hello, ask questions, pick up some promotional items, and sign up to win a free life plan package and get 20% off any service!

I look forward to seeing you there!




In the News 


Same-sex Marriage Bans Fail Constitutional Test
By Catherine E. Blackburn, written 2/14/2014 for the Tampa Bay Times

A few days ago, a federal court in Louisville, Ky., joined courts in Utah, Ohio and Oklahoma in striking down some portion of a state's ban on same-sex marriages. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States vs. Windsor in June, these courts ruled that traditional views of marriage cannot stand against the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — passed in 1868 after the Civil War. Is this a runaway train driven by judges who have no respect for legislators and voters? If it is, why have the attorneys general of Virginia and Nevada, as well as the governors of New Jersey and Nevada, declined to defend their states' ban on same-sex marriage? 

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