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January 23, 2015

Around the country, more marriage news

Washington, D.C.--Half a week after the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to hear appeals of cases from the four states under aegis of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Pres. Barack Obama used the annual State of the Union Address to praise the spread of marriage equality.

ďIíve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home. So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brotherís keeper, and our sisterís keeper,Ē he said in the January 20 address.

He also became the first president to mention lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by category in a State of the Union, although he has mentioned them in other speeches before.

The speech was skipped by three Supreme Court justices -- Samuel Alito, Jr., Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, the conservative bloc on the bench. It is not uncommon in recent years for justices to give it a miss, as some feel that it is a partisan pep rally or feel uncomfortable with the cheering and booing of the president. Chief Justice John Roberts, despite having expressed his discomfort at attending, was present, likely because of his leadership role in the court.

Elsewhere, a federal judge on January 12 struck down South Dakotaís marriage ban amendment, ruling that it violated the Constitution. Of the six couples in the suit, one wanted the right to marry in South Dakota, the others wanted the state to recognize their marriages performed in states where they are legal.

District Judge Karen Schreier ruled that the ban violated the 14th Amendment, depriving them of their rights because they were same-sex couples without justifying the discrimination.

She stayed the ruling pending appeal.

Two other cases may be suspended pending the Supreme Courtís decision, expected in June. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson stayed a case before his court challenging North Dakotaís marriage ban pending the ruling, and Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hold off on action in the stateís appeal of a ruling striking their marriage ban until the Supreme Court weighs in. Marriages are already being performed in Alaska, and a spokesperson in Richardsí office said that marriages will continue unabated while the state awaits the outcome.

In a rare piece of news coming out of Florida not involving a candidate for the Darwin Awards, two gay men who filed suit to force the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue them drivers licenses with their married, hyphenated names won a victory, getting their licenses after a separate caseís ruling took effect and same-sex marriage came to Florida on January 6.

Scott Wall-DeSousa and Daniel Wall-DeSousa, who were married in New York last year, will continue with their suit, seeking damages from the county and Gov. Rick Scott.








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