Marriage 2014: Toward a More Perfect Union

States still making progress on the marriage equality front

By Liz Massey, Dec. 18, 2014.

For states still without full marriage equality, here’s where things stand as of early December 2014.

Alabama
Four separate lawsuits challenging the state’s bans on licensing and recognizing legal same-sex marriages were filed in 2014. One case filed in Madison County, Alabama Circuit Court (Richmond & Richmond v. Madison County Circuit Clerk) was dismissed and is awaiting appeal; the other three federal lawsuits (Aaron-Brush v. Bentley, Hard v. Bentley and Searcy v. Strange) have not been decided yet.

Arkansas
Same-sex marriage in Arkansas was briefly legal between May 9 and 16, 2014, as the result of a ruling by 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. Approximately 541 same-sex couples received marriage licenses before the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed his ruling. On Nov. 25, a federal district court struck down Arkansas’s ban on same-sex marriage. The judge stayed her ruling (in the case of Jernigan v. Crane) pending appeal.

Florida
On Dec. 3, 2014, a three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay of a ruling favorable to same-sex marriage in the case of Brenner v. Scott. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in this case on Aug. 21, 2014, and if the U.S. Supreme Court declines to extend the stay, marriages may begin on Jan. 6, 2015.

Georgia 

On April 22, 2014, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Georgia and respect for marriages legally performed elsewhere on behalf of three same-sex couples. The case is known as Inniss v. Aderhold.

Kentucky

On Nov. 17, attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court seeking a review of a Nov. 6 ruling from the 6th Circuit the United States Court of Appeals that reversed a favorable lower court ruling in the closely related Kentucky cases of Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear.

Louisiana

On Sept. 3, 2014, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman became the first federal judge since June 2013 to uphold marriage discrimination in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell. The plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which has scheduled an oral argument for Jan. 9, 2015. Lambda Legal has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Michigan

On Nov. 17, attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court seeking a review of a Nov. 6 ruling from the 6th Circuit the United States Court of Appeals which reversed a favorable lower court ruling in the case of DeBoer v. Snyder. Other federal lawsuits active in the state during 2014 include two cases that address whether Michigan will respect the legal status of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and Caspar v. Snyder, a state court case seeking respect for more than 300 marriage licenses issued by the state of Michigan in March 2014, following a federal ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in DeBoer v. Snyder.

Mississippi

On Nov. 25, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled in the federal lawsuit of Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Mississippi was unconstitutional. State Attorney General Jim Hood announced that he will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Missouri

On Nov. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie D. Smith ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a federal case from Missouri, striking down the state’s marriage ban. The ruling is stayed until the judgment is final. Just days before, on Nov. 5, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison also ruled that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Missouri is unconstitutional. The victory applied only to St. Louis.

The activity in November came just one month after Missouri Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled that marriages between same-sex couples legally performed in other states must be respected in Missouri. On Oct. 6, the Missouri Attorney General announced that the state would allow that ruling to stand.

North Dakota

Two federal lawsuits were filed in June 2014 on behalf of same-sex couples in the state – Jorgensen v. Montplaisir and Ramsay v. Dalrymple. On July 22, attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the latter case filed a motion for summary judgment.

Nebraska

On Nov. 17, 2014, lawyers representing seven same-sex couples filed a legal challenge,   Waters v. Heineman, to Nebraska’s law denying them the freedom to marry. They also announced their intention to file a separate motion for emergency relief on behalf of lead plaintiff Sally Waters, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that has now progressed to terminal status.

Ohio

On Nov. 14, attorneys filed a joint petition for a writ of certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court seeking a review of the cases of Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges. The petition requests a review of a Nov. 6 ruling from the 6th Circuit the United States Court of Appeals, which reversed a lower court ruling in this federal case seeking respect for marriages legally performed in other states for the purpose of issuing death certificates.

South Dakota

On May 22, 2014, private attorneys joined with the National Center for Lesbian Rights to file a federal lawsuit, Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, against Gov. Dennis Daugaard and other state officials on behalf of six South Dakota couples. On Nov. 14, U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier denied the state of South Dakota’s motion to dismiss the case.

Tennessee

On Nov. 14, attorneys representing the plaintiffs in Tanco v. Haslam filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court, seeking a review of a Nov. 6 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which denied marriage equality to state residents and reversed a lower court ruling. Additionally, a second case, Borman v. Pyles-Borman, which was filed in the Tennessee Circuit Court, suffered a defeat on Aug. 5, 2014, when Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. denied a same-sex couple their request for a divorce.

Texas

On February 26, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia, issuing his opinion on the case De Leon v. Perry, ruled that laws in Texas prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. He also issued a stay on the ruling pending appeal. The ruling was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which has scheduled an oral argument in the case for Jan. 9, 2015.

Sources: freedomtomarry.org, marriageequality.org and advocate.com.