The year that was 2014 – Part 4: Marriage equality in the UK and USA

Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. Northumbria University graduate. Opinionated, my aim is to fuel debate. My favourite questions in life are Why? How? And What? My Favourite answers tend to start with It depends or Yes & No.

2014 was the year of marriage equality. Here we check out some of the great strides we as a community made, and some of the new freedoms afforded us to show the world our commitment to those we love.

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Britain

13 March saw the first same-sex marriages become legal in England and Wales, with the first marriages taking place on the 29 March. This followed the law for same sex marriages being passed in July 2013.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriages in Scotland was also passed on 12 March and took affect on 16 December. The ability to convert civil partnerships into marriages also occurred on 16 December, with Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish converting their civil partnership on the 21 December.

Northern Ireland has no plans to legalise same-sex marriage at present.

USA

2014 like 2013 saw a wave of changes in America. Here is a timeline of the year which continued the momentum:

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14 January saw the ban on equal marriage struck down in Oklahoma by the District Court. 23 January saw Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring reverse the state’s position on same sex marriage and supported a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s constitution.

12 February saw the District Court in Kentucky rule that the refusal to recognise same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions was unconstitutional. This decision was then put on hold until 20 March, with a further extension placed on this decision until 19 March. Further to this, on 1 July, a judge ruled the ban on performing same-sex marriages in Kentucky was unconstitutional, but also stayed the verdict until the Sixth Circuit acted upon it.

13 Febuary: A judge in the District Court of East Virginia ruled a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but stayed the verdict pending review.

26 Febuary: District Judge Garcia ruled the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas was unconstitutional and a form of ‘state imposed inequality’, with this decision placed on hold pending appeal. Texas Attorney General and Governor Elect Greg Abbott said he would appeal to the Fifth Circuit.

4 March: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion that a court decision ordering Cook County to issue marriage licences did not apply to all county clerks, however they should be viewed as persuasive in the decision of whether to issue same-sex licences. Governor Quinn Announced Illinois would record marriages issued by any county clerk.

21 March: Michigan District Court Judge Friedman found the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. He did not stay his ruling, however Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency appeal for a delay. Hundreds of couples obtained licences and married on the morning of the 22nd before the Sixth Circuit placed the decision on hold pending appeal.

9 May: Arkansas County Circuit Judge Piazza ruled the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. As the request for a hold on the decision was discussed, 450 couples obtained marriage licences. The ruling was stayed pending appeal.

13 May: Idaho District Judge Dale issued a ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was then placed on hold, pending appeal on 20 May.

19 May: District Judge McShane ruled Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional and ordered it be struck down immediately. The National Organisation for Marriage filed a petition to intervene. The request was denied by the Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court making the ruling permanent.

20 May: Judge Jones III of the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Governor Tom Corbett said he would not appeal, one county clerk tried to appeal and put the decision on hold, but was denied at circuit level and at the Supreme Court.

6 June: Judge Bandiriff Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin struck down the ban on same-sex marriage with immediate effect. Attorney General Hollen requested a stay on the decision which was granted on 13 June, pending appeal.

25 June: Tenth Circuit Court affirmed Judge Shelby’s ruling striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. The judgment was placed on hold pending review from the Supreme Court. On the same day a federal court in Indiana ruled the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Judge Young did not issue a stay on his ruling and ordered state agencies provide marital benefits to same-sex couples. Two days later the ruling was put on hold pending an appeal.

9 July: A state judge struck down Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage ruling it unconstitutional. Coming under the Tenth Circuit, that placed a stay on Utah’s reversal of the ban, the same was done for Colorado, pending appeal at Supreme Court level.

July and August saw numerous judges in Florida rule the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional – however all rulings were placed on hold on 21 August pending appeals. It appears the ban has again been deemed unconstitutional, although clerks are unsure whether the ruling applies to the whole state or just select counties.

Both the Circuit Judges in Indian, Virginia and Wisconsin affirmed the rulings striking down the ban on same-sex marriages, however stayed the ruling on hold pending appeals at the Supreme Court.

3 September saw District Judge Feldman rule in favour of upholding Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.

6 October sawthe US Supreme Court decline to take action on the five cases which led to the Circuit Courts lifting their holds on their rulings making same-sex marriages legal in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Colorado Attorney General Suthers ordered the Circuit Judges dismiss his appeal and lift the hold on the ruling passed down.

7 October saw the Ninth Circuit rule on two cases, overturning the ruling in support of the ban on same-sex marriage in Nevada and Idaho. Nevada Governor Sandoval said he would not appeal the decision. Idaho officials requested they be allowed to continue the ban whilst they saught a rehearing on a case. They also requested a stay on the ruling by the Circuit Court, which was promptly dropped when the Supreme Court denied the requests.

8 October: Chief Judge of the State District Court for Johnson County, Kansas directed the court’s clerk to issue same-sex marriage licences. This was overturned by Kansas Chief Justice Nuss but allowed applications for same-sex marriages to be accepted still.

9 October: West Virginia Governor Tomblin ordered state agencies to comply with recent US Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriages. With the ban being declared unconstitutional on 7 November.

10 October: District Court Judge Cogburn, Jr struck down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.

12 October: Judge Burgess ruled Akaska’s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional and issued an injuction preventing state officials from enforcing the ban. Governor Parnell immediately stated his intention to appeal.

13 October: The hold on the ruling in Idaho was lifted preventing the state from banning same-sex marriages as of 15 October.

17 October: US District Judge Sedwick declared Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional with Attorney General Horne stating he would not appeal with marriage licences being issued the same day. The same day in Wyoming, District Judge Skavdahl ruled in favour of same-sex marriages but stayed his ruling until 13 October or until the state said they would not appeal. The hold was lifted on 21 October after the state said they would not appeal.

4 November: District Judge Crabtree ruled that Kansas’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, however stayed his ruling until 5pm on 11 November or until the State dropped their appeal. Attorney General Schmidt announced he intended to appeal and asked that a temporary halt be placed on the decision which was turned down, then later enforced by the Supreme Court. The case was heard on 12 November, with the appeal being declined, lifting the ban.

5 November: A St Louis state judge ruled Missouri’s ban unconstitutional. Attorney General Koster announced plans to appeal to Missouri Supreme Court but decided not to request a halt on the enforcement of the ruling. This gave the officials of St Louis County the right to issue marriage licences, however the Attorney General ruled it only applied to St Louis.

6 November saw the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court uphold the ban on same-sex marriages in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee with a plan for appeal from all the plaintiffs to the Supreme Court.

7 November: The US District Court ruled that Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. The enforcement was stayed pending an appeal.

12 November: US District Judge Gergel ruled South Carolina’s ban unconstitutional. He issued a temporary halt on enforcement until noon 20 December.

14 November saw Michigan Attoeney General Schuette file a brief arguing the Sixth Circuit’s ruling invalidated all same-sex marriages previously licenced.

19 November: District Judge Morris rulled Montana’s ban unconstitutional.

20 November: The US Supreme Court denied a stay in South Carolina prohibiting the enforcement of the state’s ban.

25 November saw two US District Courts strike down same-sex marriage bans in Arkansas and Mississippi.

With plenty more rulings to come and some states still not having a challenge in place, the charge for marriage equality in America is well under way. With 2015 seeing the start of the 2016 Presidential race, this topic is bound to be a hot one in the primaries.

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