In Gay Marriage's New Landscape, Glee, Confusion And Resistance
Same-sex couples are marrying in at least six more states today, after the Supreme Court left in place lower courts' rulings against bans on gay marriage. But couples have been turned away in Kansas, one of several states that share federal jurisdiction with states where bans were lifted.
Legal experts say that federal appeals courts' rulings against same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin now extend to all 11 states in their circuits. But officials in Kansas and Wyoming say no court has ruled specifically against their ban. And in several states, legal challenges to the bans that had been put on hold are being renewed.
Those 11 states are now home to jubilant couples and activists, as well as to people who are sorely disappointed — either because the bans were struck down, or because their legal path to marriage remains blocked.
Here's a roundup of the states in question:
Utah has instructed state and county officials to recognize same-sex unions, and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday's development "may be not satisfactory for some, but it is the law of the land."
"The hardest part is still before us," said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "I know so many of you have had conflicts with your parents, with your brothers and sisters and your neighbors. ... Now is the time that we reach out and love them. That is the hardest work that we have to do."
Attorney General Sean Reyes said the change likely means that questions about marriages that have already been performed in Utah, and any disputes over adoption, are now "moot," the Tribune says.
People on both sides of the issue are citing a speech given this weekend by Mormon leader Elder Dallin H. Oaks, according to the Deseret News. Oaks said, "We should love all people, be good listeners and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious."
There are reports that same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses are being turned away.
After the Supreme Court's announcement Monday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said it means "an already uncertain legal situation for Kansas and many other states will become even more so."
He added, "No court has squarely decided whether the Kansas Constitution's prohibition on same-sex marriage — adopted by voters less than a decade ago — is invalid."
Same-sex couples who went to the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Monday afternoon to pick up a marriage license were denied, The Wichita Eagle reports. Cristel and Darla Heffron had been hoping to make their marriage official in Kansas; they were joined in a civil union in Hawaii last year.
"I guess I kind of knew there was a likely chance of being denied," Cristel Heffron said, "but when it actually happened, I did start to tear up and become emotional. It is upsetting. We waited a long time, and now we're still waiting."
The Mayflower Congregational Church held 14 weddings in front of a packed sanctuary Monday, after couples raced to the Oklahoma County Courthouse to pick up their marriage licenses.
"It's just been a whirlwind of a day, and we wouldn't have imagined this happening today," said Megan Sibbett, whose marriage to Annemarie Mulkey was attended by their 6-month-old daughter.
Kenny Wright, who waited 18 years to marry Bo Bass, says, "We didn't go to any other state, because we kept waiting for it to be legal here. And ... it's like a dream come true," member station KOSU reports.
According to KOSU, Gov. Mary Fallin "said in a statement that the will of the people has been overridden and that the rights of Oklahomans had been trampled by an arrogant, out-of-control federal government."
"Gov. Matt Mead says that the attorney general will continue to defend Wyoming's constitution defining marriage between a man and a woman," reports Wyoming Public Media.
A lawsuit against the ban is slated for a hearing in mid-December. The case is Courage v. Wyoming.
"Unlike the other cases in the 10th Circuit, Wyoming has a state law, rather constitutional amendment, that prohibits same-sex marriage," The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. "That means there has been no court ruling that directly addresses Wyoming's law."
The Casper Star-Tribune says it contacted at least four counties' clerks who say they've gotten calls from same-sex couples seeking licenses, but they didn't issue any because they haven't been directed to do so.
Thomas Stanley of Cheyenne says he's willing to call up any clerk who will issue a marriage license to him and his partner.
"I should have gone somewhere else (to another state to marry), but it's a matter of principle," he tells the Star-Tribune. "I was born in this state. I will live here all my life. I don't think I will do it until I can."
Attorney General John W. Suthers, who had defended the state's ban, said Monday that his office will "file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses."
But several county clerks went ahead and issued marriage licenses Monday, Colorado Public Radio reports. The station spoke to several plaintiffs who were part of a federal lawsuit against the ban.
"I am shaking with emotion," Kate Burns said.
"It's so meaningful for families like ours. We've always known that our relationship is equal," Mark Thrun said. "We love each other no differently than two straight people would love each other. We love our kids no differently. So to have sort of formal acknowledgement that our relationship is the same, by the highest court in the land, even if it's a nondecision, is just thrilling."
At 1 p.m. Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that same-sex couples could get marriage licenses and have their weddings officiated.
Both Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark R. Herring welcomed the move, with McAuliffe calling it "a historic and long-overdue moment for our commonwealth and our country," according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
In an executive order issued Tuesday, McAuliffe instructed all state agencies to "evaluate all policies and take all necessary and appropriate legal measures to comply with this decision."
A lead plaintiff in the suit against the ban, Tony London, picked up a marriage license with his partner of 25 years, Tim Bostic.
"It was issued by Clerk of Court George Schaefer III, whom London and Bostic had sued over the issue," the reports.
"It seems surreal," Bostic said. "To say we are overjoyed would be an understatement."
A federal judge issued an order Monday telling lawyers on both sides of a case challenging North Carolina's ban to submit documents supporting their arguments.
Middle District Court Judge William Osteen "said in his order that he wants to clarify the similarities between the Virginia case and the North Carolina case. Each party involved has 10 days to file," reports member station WUNC.
WUNC also notes that the issue has potentially wide political implications:
"Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is largely expected to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016, has said he will not defend the amendment further. But Republican Gov. Pat McCrory expressed displeasure with the court's decision, and Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis said they would seek outside counsel to intercede. "
"This is an interesting time for all of us," executive director of Equality NC Chris Sgro said Monday, according to the Raleigh News Observer.
The year-old lawsuit filed by Tracie Goodwin and Katie Bradacs against the state's ban is continuing. The state's attorney general has said he will defend the ban until the judge rules in that case. Plaintiffs' attorney Carrie Warner says she'll file a motion asking for a ruling.
"We're hopeful that she (Judge Michelle Childs) will rule in light of what the federal law now is in the 4th Circuit and also make a decision that the South Carolina constitutional amendment is therefore illegal," Warner told Greenville Online.
But some couples are moving ahead. In Charleston, "County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiancee, Nichols Bleckley, will seek a marriage license this week from the county's Probate Court — one of at least five requests for same-sex marriage licenses expected soon across South Carolina," reports the Post and Courier.
"The state can continue to fight if it wants, but it's a waste of taxpayers' money," USC political scientist and judicial expert Donald Songer tells The State newspaper. "[Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson] are going to lose, but they may feel politically they don't want to give in and have people say they are responsible for gay marriage in South Carolina."
A lawsuit challenging the state's ban was delayed by a federal district earlier this year, in the hopes that the Supreme Court would rule on the issue. That means that as in other states, same-sex couples cannot apply for marriage licenses.
"A member of [Judge Robert Chambers'] staff reportedly said Monday he would not immediately issue an opinion, but did not estimate when a final judgment would be released," West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports.
The plaintiffs have requested a ruling, reports The Charleston Gazette.
"Unless the [West Virginia] court can identify something different about this case, about the state law, then they are bound to follow the 4th Circuit's decision," says attorney Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal, a group that's representing three couples in the lawsuit, according to The Gazette.
The attorney general's office says it is reviewing the legal implications of Monday's development.
"Today, county clerks from around Indiana say they are ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses," reports Indiana Public Radio.
The office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller sent a letter to county clerks in the state, ordering them to comply with a mandate from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ordered that all obstacles to same-sex marriage be removed.
Indiana's "state-mandated marriage license form still identifies a male and female applicant," IPR's Stephanie Wiechmann reports. She says that for now, clerks and their staff will alter the state documents to read "applicant 1" and "applicant 2."
"Same-sex couples married in early June will now have their marriages recognized by the state," Wisconsin Public Radio reports. "Same-sex couples who want to wed can do so whenever they please."
Wisconsin officials say the fight over gay marriage is over in their state.
"We're not going to look back," Gov. Scott Walker said, according to WPR. "We're just going to enforce the law as we said we would all along if that's what the court ruled. That's what we're doing."
Milwaukee couple Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann, who have been together for 38 years, tell WPR's Chuck Quirmbach that they had been hoping the courts would rule in their favor.
"But I was still scared, and maybe because we're back from the 1970s, where we didn't get anything," Badger said. "And we were accosted in places as simple as food stores because of men shopping together."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.