More U.S. states push for gay unions in wake of high court decision

Reuters News
|
Posted: Oct 07, 2014 12:22 PM

By David Adams and Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Legal pressure mounted across the United States on Tuesday for further expansion of marriage rights after the Supreme Court declined to uphold bans in five states, but left intact 20 others.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued orders on Tuesday that mean earlier rulings striking down bans in Wisconsin and Indiana can now go into effect.

Marriage equality advocates in Florida also planned to ask a federal judge on Tuesday to lift a stay and allow same-sex unions to go ahead in Florida. Legal challenges were also being planned in North and South Carolina and West Virginia.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to rule on whether states can ban gay marriage, but rejected appeals to uphold the ban in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana.

As a result, the high court left intact lower-court rulings striking down those bans, raising the number of states permitting gay marriage from 19 to 24.

Six more states could soon join them under regional federal appeals court rulings that had struck down other bans in North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado.

Three same-sex couples in South Carolina say they plan to apply for marriage licenses on Wednesday and if denied will file lawsuits against the state.

South Carolina Equality plans to rally at the statehouse on Wednesday and march to Attorney General Alan Wilson's office, where they will present a petition demanding that the state stop defending its constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Circuit Court decisions that will affect nine other states are imminent. Separately, appeals in cases in which district court judges struck down bans in Texas, Louisiana and Florida are also pending.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said it planned to file a motion on Tuesday asking a federal judge in north Florida to lift his stay on gay marriage.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle became the state's fifth judge to rule against Florida's gay marriage ban in late August, but didn't go as far as to allow couples to wed, citing pending cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in other states.

Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, urged the state's Attorney General Pam Bondi to take heed of Monday's high court decision.

"Any further attempt to prevent historical and legal change is fruitless," he said.

Lawyers supporting gay marriage bans say the fight is not over. "The Supreme Court has repeatedly told us that if things are going to change, it's up to them and lower courts shouldn't do it," said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage.

(Additonal reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Harriet McLeod in South Carolina)