Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen: a genuine, grade-A jackass

It’s official – Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is a grade-A jackass.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday that same-sex couples who have wed in recent days are not married in the eyes of the law and that county clerks issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples could be prosecuted.

“You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands and there can be legal repercussions for that,” Van Hollen said. “So, depending on who believes they’re married under the law and who doesn’t believe they’re married under the law may cause them to get themselves in some legal problems that I think are going to take years for them and the courts to work out.”

Responding to Van Hollen’s threats that county clerks who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples could be arrested and prosecuted, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell evoked the civil rights protests of the 1960s, saying, “He needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses.”

Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban

This is kind of a big deal…

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb Friday overturned Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban.

The measure was overwhelmingly passed through a state constitutional amendment in 2006.

The Wisconsin case comes amid a broad shift in public opinion about same-sex marriage.

Nationwide, same-sex couples have the right to marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Judges in seven of the remaining 31 states have issued rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans, with those rulings stayed as they work their way through appellate courts.

In Wisconsin, voters in 2006 resoundingly approved the same-sex marriage amendment, 59% to 41%. Every county in the state except Dane voted for it.

But the most recent Marquette Law School poll, released May 21, found 55% of registered voters statewide now favor allowing gay marriage, while 37% oppose it and 6% say they do not know.

While this certainly isn’t the last ruling I expect to see regarding Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage, I do expect that Judge Crabb’s ruling will ultimately be upheld.

Church Sues North Carolina Over Marriage Equality

Usually when you read a headline like this you find an article about a church, synod, diocese or parish supporting a ban on marriage equality (aka same sex marriage or gay marriage) because it goes against God and nature and they support their position on out of context tracts from the Bible (well if they bother to support it at all).

But in North Carolina, the United Church of Christ is using the First Amendment to the Constitution to oppose North Carolina’s prohibition on marriage equality. The law makes it illegal for ministers to perform religious marriage ceremonies if there is no marriage license…and of course there won’t be a marriage license in the case of same sex couples. Yet the United Church of Christ feels they should provide all of their parishioners with the opportunity for a marriage sanctified by their church.

Sometimes you never notice that a law is unconstitutional for a wholly different reason that equal rights or civil rights…those who wrote and passed this law overreached in more ways than they could have imagined!

Here’s a telling excerpt from CBS News:

A coalition of clergy members filed a novel federal lawsuit Monday against North Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates their religious freedom.

The clergy members said that they’d like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but that they can’t because of the “unjust law.” Their attorney, Jake Sussman, says it’s the only case to bring the First Amendment religious freedom claims among the more than 60 marriage equality cases pending in the nation’s state and federal courts.

“North Carolina’s marriage laws are a direct affront to freedom of religion,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister with the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We feel that it is important that any person that comes into community life of a United Church of Christ congregation be afforded equal pastoral care and equal opportunity to religious services that clergy provide.”

But in North Carolina, clergy are often faced with a troubling decision: “whether to provide those services or break the law,” he said. “That’s something no clergy member should be faced with.”

And from the Charlotte Observer:

“North Carolina judges some of its citizens as unfit for the blessings of God. We reject that notion,” said the Rev. Nancy Allison, pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ and one of the plaintiffs in the case.

State law says it is a misdemeanor crime for ministers to perform a marriage ceremony without having a marriage license for a couple.

“By denying same-sex couples the right to marry and prohibiting religious denominations even from performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, the State of North Carolina stigmatizes same-sex couples, as well as the religious institutions and clergy that believe in equal rights,” the suit says.

In God We Trust!

Wisconsin couple challenges state’s ban on same-sex marriage

This week a Milwaukee lesbian couple filed a lawsuit directly with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an effort to invalidate Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

According to the suit, Katherine Halopka-Ivery tried to transfer ownership of real estate in her name to the couple and Milwaukee County register of deeds officials refused to record the transfer unless the couple filed for a Wisconsin domestic partnership.

The suit contends that Wisconsin’s current law recognizing only different-sex marriages violates equal protection and due process, establishes a two-tiered regime that harms same-sex couples, and interferes with “fundamental rights regarding deeply personal choices about marriage and family life.”

It further contends there was no legitimate secular purpose for Wisconsin to ban same-sex marriage, only religious reasons.

Considering the success of other challenges to bans on same-sex marriage in other states, I’m hopeful this challenge will set our state on a course towards marriage equality.

AG candidate Richards advocates for marriage equality in Wisconsin

On the heels of news that four same-sex couples Four same-sex couples are suing Gov. Scott Walker and other public officials in an attempt to overturn Wisconsin’s seven-year-old constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Democratic State Rep. (and Attorney General candidate) Jon Richards issued a statement advocating for marriage equality in Wisconsin.

“Like so many loving families across the state, my wife Andrea and I are pleased that the federal court here, as it has in so many other states, will have a chance to rule that the U.S. Constitution ensures that every loving couple should be treated equally. As Attorney General, it will be my obligation to the citizens of Wisconsin to defend their constitutional rights; rights that I believe are currently being violated for same-sex couples. I support marriage equality, and under my leadership, the Department of Justice will be an ally of those seeking equality for all individuals in Wisconsin.”

I’m not surprised at Rep. Richards’ stand in support of marriage equality, and I’m heartened to know that if elected Attorney General he would work to ensure equality for all Wisconsinites, instead of seeking to keep us divided.

Federal judge strikes down Utah same-sex marriage ban

Yesterday a federal judge struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, noting that the ban violated due process and equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling saying Utah’s law passed by voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

“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,” Shelby wrote.

Illinois lawmakers approve marriage equality

ILLINOIS!

SPRINGFIELD — The General Assembly today narrowly approved a gay marriage bill, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions.

The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the bare minimum needed to send the measure back to the Senate, which quickly signed off. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.

Minnesota becomes 12th state to approve same sex marriage

Minnesota!

Gay couples will be permitted to wed in Minnesota starting in August, making it the 12th state to permit same-sex marriage and the first in the Midwest to take such a step outside of a court ruling.

The State Senate, controlled by Democrats, voted 37 to 30 on Monday to allow same-sex marriages, after approval by the State House last week. Gov. Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, had urged lawmakers to pass the measure and said he would sign the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

I know the day will come here in Wisconsin when equality for all our citizens is enshrined in our state’s constitution, because bigotry should not be enshrined in our state’s constitution.