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Same-sex marriage rulings: What the judges have said

DEC. 20, 2013

Utah ban ruled unconstitutional

●Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was the first to be declared unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and entitled legally married same-sex couples equal treatment under federal law.

“The State of Utah has provided no evidence that opposite-sex marriage will be affected in any way by same-sex marriage. In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens,” Judge Robert J. Shelby, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, wrote in his ruling. “Moreover, the Constitution protects the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government.”

JAN. 14, 2014

Oklahoma ban stuck down

●Oklahoma was next. U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote in his decision: “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

FEB. 13, 2014

Virginia ban ruled unconstitutional

●In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen said she was “compelled to conclude” that Virginia’s marriage laws unconstitutionally denied gay citizens fundamental rights.

“In Windsor, our Constitution was invoked to protect the individual rights of gay and lesbian citizens, and the propriety of such protection led to upholding state law against conflicting federal law,” she wrote. “The propriety of invoking such protection remains compelling when faced with the task of evaluating the constitutionality of state laws.”

MARCH 14, 2014

Tennessee must recognize some same-sex marriages

●A federal judge ruled that Tennessee must recognize the out-of-state marriages of three same-sex couples as their lawsuit against the state worked its way through the system. In doing so, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger offered a nod to the various decisions in Windsor’s wake.

“In light of this rising tide of persuasive post-Windsor federal caselaw, it is no leap to conclude that the plaintiffs here are likely to succeed in their challenge to Tennessee’s Anti-Recognition Laws,” she wrote. She later added: “At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history.”

MARCH 21, 2014

Michigan ban struck down

●Plaintiffs in the case were seeking the right to marry and jointly adopt children. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman quoted the Windsor case in ruling in their favor.

“It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up ‘to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives,’ ” he wrote. “Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.”

MAY 13, 2014

Idaho must start issuing same-sex marriage licenses

●A federal judge struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban, though another court later stayed its effect, at least temporarily prohibiting gay couples from marrying as the case winds its way through the courts.

“The Plaintiffs are entitled to extraordinary remedies because of their extraordinary injuries. Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status,” U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote in an opinion.

MAY 19, 2014

Oregon ban ruled unconstitutional

●In concluding his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane waxed philosophical about the modern fight over same-sex marriage.

“It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading ‘God Hates [F----]’ make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides,” he wrote. “At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities.” He added, “I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families.”

MAY 20, 2014

Pennsylvania ban struck down

●Pennsylvania’s same-sex-marriage ban was the last to fall in the Northeast.

“We hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Judge John Jones III wrote in his ruling. “Because these laws are unconstitutional, we shall enter an order permanently enjoining their enforcement. By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

— Niroj Chokshi


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