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Same-Sex Marriages

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(CNN) — A federal judge in Utah has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law “conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law.”

Same Sex MarriageIn striking down the state law, which voters approved in 2004, the judge ruled that the state’s “current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason.

“Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional,” U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby wrote in a 53-page ruling.

The lawsuit was brought by one gay and two lesbian couples in Utah who wish to marry but have been unable to do so because the Utah Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage.

The decision was greeted with joy from a spokesman for GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “At last, loving and committed couples in Utah will have the opportunity to celebrate marriage equality this holiday season,” said Wilson Cruz in a posting on its website.

“We are seeing state leaders and more and more citizens recognize that loving and committed couples should not be legally kept apart,” said Cruz. “We look forward to seeing that momentum to continue in 2014.”

A spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement that it supports “traditional marriage,” while teaching that everyone should be treated with respect. “This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process,” Eric Hawkins said.

“We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state Constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”

That view was not shared by Clifford Rosky, chairman of the board of Equality Utah. “We think it is a thoughtful and careful ruling that is based on the Supreme Court decision last summer and we expect that it will be upheld ultimately by the United States Supreme Court,” he said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 other U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment or state law in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Worldwide, 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of these are in Europe and South America.

Civil unions, which are legal in Colorado, grant couples most of the rights of state civil marriages, but provide none of the federal benefits of marriage, such as Social Security benefits.

These rights include spousal support, medical decision-making privileges, access to a partner’s insurance, and hospital visitation rights.

President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage and defining marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” in 1996.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected parts of DOMA, in a 5-4 decision that dismissed an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds and ruled same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.

On Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow same-sex marriage statewide and ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A World War II veteran married his boyfriend of 20 years in a historic ceremony at the Veterans Home of Chula Vista Thursday.

The senior living facility in Chula Vista saw its first ever gay wedding Thursday.

John Banvard, 95, and 67-year-old Gerard Nadeau, who served in Vietnam, said they wanted to have their ceremony among friends, so they chose to have it at the Veteran’s Home, where they’ve lived for the last three years.

gay-coupleThey decided to get married after the Supreme Court’s actions earlier this year, which allowed same-sex couples to marry.

“We were waiting on the Supreme Court to make that decision,” said Banvard.

Many of the couple’s friends who live at the veteran’s home attended the small and simple ceremony.

“The world is changing, we have to go along with it,” said one guest.

Facility director Neal Asper said news of two men getting married at the VA home wasn’t well received by everyone.  A town hall meeting was held at the VA home to address concerns from other residents.

“It’s been somewhat controversial,” said Asper. “I told them, they have the right to get married here just like everybody else.”

One resident told Fox5 he didn’t agree with Banvard and Nadeau’s celebration of their love for each other, but supported their legal right to do so.

“I just know that it’s against my faith and my religion, but as Americans they have a right to do what they want to do,” he said.

The newlyweds hope the wedding will encourage other elderly couples to do the same.

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Department of Treasury announced that married same-sex couples will be allowed to file joint tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said. “It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve.”

Feds OK joint tax returns for married gay couples The decision means married same-sex couples will now be treated equally in the eyes of the federal government, including having access to social security and pension benefits, but it doesn’t mean more cash.

“Many couples will see little to no difference and some couples in the higher income tax brackets that would be more subject to the marriage penalty rules that is built in for the traditional couples may see their tax bill go up,” CPA Chris Cundari said.

Cundari said before the decision married gay couples had to file separate returns under the community property rules.

Every case is different, but based on his analysis lower income couples are the most likely to see a noticeable difference.

Even if high-income couples pay more now, Cundari said the ruling does have significant long-term benefits for all married same-sex couples.

“If one of the individuals passes away, a survivor could be eligible for pension benefits [and] a survivor could be eligible for social security benefits,” Cundari said. “This wasn’t allowed under DOMA in the past.”

Gay MarriageSAN FRANCISCO —  The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to revive Proposition 8 , ending the last remaining legal challenge to same-sex marriage in the state.

Meeting in closed session, the state high court rejected arguments  by ProtectMarriage, Proposition 8’s sponsors, that only an appellate court could overturn a statewide law.

A federal judge in San Francisco declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010, and state officials refused to appeal. ProtectMarriage did appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that initiative sponsors have no right to defend their measures in federal court. The decision left in place the ruling by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

In its challenge before the state’s highest court,  ProtectMarriage argued that a single judge lacked the authority to overturn a state constitutional amendment.  The group also contended that Walker’s injunction applied to two counties at most and that state officials had overstepped their authority by ordering county clerks throughout California to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

State officials countered that the challenge was a veiled attempt to persuade a state court to interfere with a federal judge’s order in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Same-sex couples began marrying in California in late June after a federal appeals court lifted a hold on Walker’s injunction. ProtectMarriage went back to the U.S. Supreme Court the following day, arguing the appeals court acted prematurely because the high court’s decision was not even final. The Supreme Court refused to intervene.

Then the group went to the state Supreme Court, asking the justices to halt the marriages immediately while considering the legal arguments. The seven-member court unanimously rejectedthe request for a “stay” or hold.

Polls show that a majority of California voters now support same-sex marriage.

Read more at latimes.com

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County clerk’s request to temporarily halt same-sex weddings in California was denied by the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

Ernest Dronenburg said he filed the motion last week to clarify legal issues and protect gay and lesbian couples.

The move was to find out how June’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage affects voter-passed Proposition 8 and whether the decision applies to all of California, or just Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where the couples that challenged the ballot measure live, according to Dronenburg.

Ernest DronenbergHe said he also wanted to know whether county clerks, who are elected by voters, are independent or governed by state officials.

Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the state as between one man and one woman, was declared unconstitutional in rulings by lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the law’s merits, but declared that backers of the ballot measure did not have standing to bring an appeal.

The state’s high court issued its denial without comment. State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Dronenburg’s petition did not bring up any new issues, and that all 58 counties were bound to issue marriage licenses to same- sex couples.

Earlier Tuesday, Dronenburg said he filed the stay request to protect gay and lesbian couples, since supporters of traditional marriage had promised renewed legal action.

He said he wanted clarification of the law.

“We believe that we just want to just obey the law,” said Dronenburg. “The law is not clear.”

Dronenburg spoke to reporters after a group of gay and lesbian Republicans called for a county investigation of his request.

Despite his action, the county clerk’s office has been issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

After Dronenburg took the action last week, Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said the clerk was acting on his own.

Supervisor Dave Roberts, who is gay, told U-T San Diego on Monday that he wants the board to meet with county lawyers to explore options for dealing with Dronenburg’s action.

According to published reports, Dronenburg received help in preparing his stay request from Charles LiMandri, an area lawyer who was a major Proposition 8 supporter.

At a news conference after June’s court ruling, LiMandri vowed to seek a court order blocking the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Dronenburg said the court action was filed at no cost to taxpayers.

Susan Jester, president of Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego County, which represents gay and lesbian GOP members, demanded the county clerk stop using his office to interfere with the law.

“Clarify is not spelled S-T-A-Y or S-T-O-P,” said Jester. “Clarify is please tell me Attorney General or Supreme Court what this means.”

She said she still has a lot of questions she wants answered.

“Why file the petition in the first place if you were just trying to clarify the law?” asked Jester. “Why did you not go to county counsel like you were supposed to do? Why Charles LiMandri? And why now? Why is that our county clerk is the only one  out of 58 that can’t seem to figure out what he’s supposed to do?”

Ernest DronenbergSAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego County’s embattled clerk/assessor/recorder said Tuesday his request to temporarily halt same-sex weddings in California was made to clarify issues and protect gay and lesbian couples.

Ernest Dronenberg filed the motion last week to find out how June’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage affects voter-passed Proposition 8 and whether the decision applies to all of California, or just Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where the couples that challenged the ballot measure live.

He said he also wanted to know whether county clerks, who are elected by voters, are independent or governed by state officials.

Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the state as between one man and one woman, was declared unconstitutional in rulings by lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the law’s merits, but declared that backers of the ballot measure did not have standing to bring an appeal.

Supporters of traditional marriage have denounced the ruling and promised renewed legal action.

“I asked for a stay because it’s cruel to set up people,” Dronenberg told news crews. “In 2004, the last time there was a case, the court came out against it and they had to unwrap 4,000 marriages — that is hurtful.”

Dronenberg spoke to reporters after a group of gay and lesbian Republicans called for a county investigation of his request.

Despite his action, the County Clerk’s Office has been issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

After Dronenberg took the action last week, Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said the clerk was acting on his own.

Supervisor Dave Roberts, who is gay, told U-T San Diego Monday that he wants the board to meet with county lawyers to explore options for dealing with Dronenberg’s action.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Dronenberg’s petition did not bring up any new issues, and that all 58 counties were bound to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s chief law enforcement officer urged the state high court Monday to refuse once again to stop same-sex marriages while the justices consider a legal bid to revive Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned gay nuptials.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, responding to a request filed Friday by San Diego County Clerk Ernest J. Dronenburg Jr.,  told  California’s top court that stopping gays from marrying now would amount to an unconstitutional interference with a federal court order.

“The public interest weighs sharply against issuing a stay in this case,” Harris’ office argued. “After years of litigation, there is now a final determination that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

Dronenburg urged the California Supreme Court to rule that Gov. Jerry Brown and other statewide officials lack supervisory powers over elected county clerks, who issue marriage licenses, and may not order them to stop enforcing Proposition 8.

Read more at latimes.com

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Clerk filed a petition Friday with the California Supreme Court asking to prohibit issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in California, leaving intact a lower court ruling that struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Same-sex Wedding

Stephanie Torres and Susan Hartman were the first same-sex couple to get married in San Diego since Proposition 8 was struck down.

Greg Cox, Chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement: “The county clerk (Ernest J. Dronenburg Jr.) acted independently on this matter. No one else from the county was consulted or had any part of this court action, including the Board of Supervisors. The county’s position is and always has been that we, the county, will follow applicable law with regards to same-sex marriage.”

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said the filing “offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights.” She said “the federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all 58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions.”

In his petition, Dronenburg also argued that county clerks aren’t bound by orders from Gov. Jerry Brown, Harris and other state officials to marry gay couples.

The state Supreme Court on Monday refused a similar request to stop same- sex weddings from backers of Prop. 8.

SAN DIEGO – A large number of soon-to-be-married same-sex couples are expected for Walk-in Wednesday at the San Diego County Administration Building.

gay coupleThe County Clerk’s Office has had limited appointments available Monday and Tuesday, but no appointment is needed on Wednesday to get a marriage license.

Based on estimates, the county is expecting to hand out 200 licenses.

“We’re anticipating the day to be like a Valentine’s Day,” said Val Wood, Chief Deputy Recorder/Clerk.

Everyone who has their required papers in order before 5 p.m. that day will be married, according to Wood.

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