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January 10, 2014

Marriage faces setbacks in new battles

San Juan, P.R.--A federal judge in Puerto Rico on October 21 bucked the trend of its fellow courts, ruling against same-sex marriage in a case brought by five couples.

Two of the couples want to marry on the islands, the other three married in other jurisdictions and want the government of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. Because of its political status, its laws are subject to the United States Constitution.

The couples, represented by Lambda Legal, have vowed to appeal. Puerto Rico falls under the aegis of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and is the only area in that court’s jurisdiction that bans same-sex marriage. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island all allow same-sex marriage already.

The Supreme Court rejected appeals of cases from the 7th, 4th and 10th Circuits in early October, bringing same-sex marriage to all the states in those circuits. The 6th Circuit, which contains Ohio, has yet to rule on the same-sex marriage cases before it, but the Supreme Court is unlikely to take any same-sex marriage case until an appellate-level court rules against marriage, giving the court dissenting rulings between circuits to iron out. However, the First Circuit is unlikely to follow the logic of the trial court, which stated that there was no constitutional guarantee of same-sex marriage.

However, despite the appellate unanimity on marriage, Kansas, Montana and South Carolina are refusing to issue marriage licenses until they are ordered to by the courts. Kansas falls under the 10th Circuit, which already ruled in favor of marriage. Despite the 10th Circuit’s ruling, however, the Westboro Baptist Church is trying to intervene in the case to argue for Kansas’ marriage ban. They filed a 22-page brief on October 26, filled with biblical references.

Montana falls under the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and South Carolina the Fourth Circuit, both of which have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage already, so courts in those states are bound by precedent to rule the same way.

In North Carolina, the National Organization for Marriage, a virulently anti-gay organization, dropped $117,000 in an attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, buying ads for her opponent, Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who fought attempts to overturn the state’s marriage ban, which has been struck by the federal appeals court.

The group will also be running ads supporting “traditional marriage” during evening newscasts in Charlotte. Those are non-candidate-specific.








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