News You Should Know July 28, 2014

BTL Staff

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Lawyers will argue the constitutionality of gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin in about a month. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced Friday [July 25] on its online docket that it has rescheduled oral arguments for both states' appeals of federal court decisions for Aug. 26. Federal judges in Indiana and Wisconsin overturned each state's gay marriage ban in separate rulings. When both states appealed, the 7th Circuit Court combined the cases and set aside the previous hearing date. The 7th Circuit also denied requests that the states' appeals be heard before the full 10-member court instead of a three-judge panel, as is customary. Hundreds of same-sex couples were married in both states after the bans were overturned and before stays were issued.

NEW MEXICO (AP) - A southern New Mexico county clerk says he has issued nearly 900 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the past year. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins said Friday his office has given out 896 licenses since August 2013. Ellins says he gave out the most licenses within two months after announcing they would be made available. A group of state legislators filing a lawsuit against Ellins last year, challenging the issue of licenses. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in December that barring same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses was unconstitutional.

ALASKA (AP) - The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday [July 25] rejected the denial of survivor benefits to a woman whose same-sex partner was shot to death on the job in 2011. The high court held that denying benefits to Deborah Harris was a violation of equal protection. It sent the case back to a workers' compensation commission for further consideration. The state Department of Law was reviewing the decision. Part of the evaluation will be whether law changes or new regulations are needed to comply with the ruling, a spokeswoman said. The decision is the latest by a court that over the years has chipped away at laws deemed discriminatory against gay couples. In 2005, the high court found it unconstitutional to deny certain benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees. This past April, the court found that gay couples are equally entitled to the same state property-tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled veterans as married couples. In the latest case, Harris challenged the constitutionality of state workers' compensation law limiting eligibility for survivor benefits to widows or widowers. Under state law, widows or widowers are entitled to survivor benefits if their husband or wife dies in a work-related injury; children are also eligible but if there are no children and is no surviving spouse, benefits can go to other specified family members who were dependent on the worker. Same-sex couples have not received such benefits because they are not allowed to marry in Alaska. Voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That ban is being challenged in federal court, with arguments set for October.

COLORADO (AP) - The Colorado Court of Appeals has denied state Attorney General John Suthers' request to stop Boulder's clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The court issued its ruling Thursday [July 24] evening, saying Suthers didn't establish the factors required to reverse a ruling that allowed clerk Hillary Hall to issue such licenses. The court did not elaborate on its decision. Suthers appealed Monday [July 21] after state District Judge Andrew Hartman rejected his request to stop Hall. Hall says "hopefully this means that the Attorney General will respect the appellate court's decision rather than filing more motions or appeals." As of noon Thursday [July 24], her office had issued 183 same-sex marriage licenses.

FLORIDA (LGBTQNATION) - U. S. Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), a Tampa Bay-area Republican, said Monday [July 21] he supported last week's ruling by a Monroe County, Fla., judge who said Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory and violates gay people's right to equal treatment under the law. Jolly becomes the eighth current Republican member of U.S. Congress to come out in support of same-sex marriage. He joins Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtien (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R.-N.Y.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa).


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