One of America's main guarantees of freedom, and one part of our system of "checks and balances," is an independent judiciary: judges who do their job of assuring constitutional and legal equality and justice for all, rather than just rubberstamping whatever politicians or the passions of the moment might dictate. Attacks on judges and the courts for doing their job are nothing new — going back to the denunciations of "activists judges" and billboards demanding the impeachment of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of equlity in cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. Every American, gay or non-gay, is entitled to their day in court. Numerous organizations across the country are representing same-sex couples and their families in order to secure marriage to protect all families.
Use the key resources below to learn more about the landmark and current cases in this fight for fairness.
FROM EVAN WOLFSON:
The court got it right
Evan Wolfson writes, "Last week, the highest court in our nation's biggest state got it right: Excluding loving committed couples from marriage harms them and their families and helps no one. Exclusion also violates the constitution's command of equality for all. American values of fairness and inclusion really do matter and apply to gay and non-gay people alike."
BLOG: Loving equality
Evan Wolfson and civil rights attorney Bernard S. Cohen, who argued the Loving's case, write together about Loving v. Virginia as a milestone in racial equality, an important vindication of marriage as a cherished civil right, and a testament to the importance of fighting for equality, rather than sitting by silently, indifferently, or complacently in the face of cruel exclusion.
Stay in the fight: The court stumbled, but the movement for justice continues
Evan Wolfson critiques the Washington state high court's decision in 2006 where the court stumbled to provide marriage equality with a sharply divided 5-4 ruling and concludes the movement for justice must go on.
The freedom to marry: Keep dancing
Following the New York state high court's disappointing decision perpetuating discrimination in marriage, Evan Wolfson notes, "The silver lining to the New York State high court's poorly argued ruling in favor of marriage discrimination is, well, that it's poorly argued. If we make our case for equality directly to our fellow Americans, we'll win."
Happy, but not satisfied
Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters, speaks with Newsweek's Debra Rosenberg about the unanimous NJ Supreme Court decision, the upcoming election, and the work ahead to win the freedom to marry.
The un-American attacks on so-called activist judges (pdf)
The American judicial system plays a crucial role in our system of checks and balances. Find out why the disingenuous attacks on our judges and courts cannot be allowed to continue.
WHERE YOU CAN GO TO GET INVOLVED OR LEARN MORE:
Celebrating the Freedom to Marry on the 40th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia
Our page commemorates the Loving celebration in June 2007 which was co-sponsored by civil rights organizations from across the country to honor the freedom to marry as a civil right, featuring a rare public statement by Mrs. Mildred Loving (a plaintiff in the historic Loving v. VirginiaSupreme court case which ended racial discrmination in marriage) supporting the freedom to marry for all Americans.
National Center for Lesbian Rights: Marriage
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. NCLR is lead counsel on behalf of same-sex couples in the California marriage case, which is currently before the California Supreme Court.
American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT Project
Since the first marriage lawsuit for same-sex couples in 1972, the ACLU has been at the forefront of both legal and public education efforts to secure marriage for same-sex couples and win legal recognition for LGBT relationships.
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defender's Marriage-Related Cases
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression. GLAD is involved in pending marriage-related cases.
LEGISLATIVE STATUS OF GAY AND LESBIAN FAMILIES IN THE U.S.:
Freedom to Marry Legislative Maps
View and/or download United States maps tracking proposed legislation concerning marriage throughout our nation. Also, find maps showing the current status of protections for same-sex couples in our country and historical views of past marriage struggles.
THE NUMBERS: POLLING & STATISTICS:
- On May 5, 1993, Hawaii's highest court was the first ever to rule that excluding same-sex couples from marriage was discrimination. The case was sent back to trial and the decision was reaffirmed in 1996, but the judge stayed enforcement due to the state's appeal of the Hawaii Supreme Court. The appeal won out the following year after an anti-marriage state constitutional amendment was passed in Hawaii. The state legislature responded by passing the first ever 'Repicrocal Beneficiaries' law giving some protections to same-sex couples.
- In Baker v. State of Vermont which was decided on December 20, 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as different-sex married couples. Following this ruling, the legislature fell short of equality and created the first civil unions law.
- The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled on November 18th, 2003 that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples in marriage and required marriage be extended to same-sex couples.
- On October 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled same-sex couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, but failed to require full equality in marriage. This led to the NJ legislature passing a civil unions law.
- On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in In Re: Marriage Cases to uphold the freedom to marry in California and determined that "limiting the designation of marriage to a union 'between a man and a woman' is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples." At the same time, an anti-marriage initiative qualified for the November 2008 ballot which subsequently took away equality and fairness in California and wrote marriage discrimination into the state constitution.
- Connecticut joined California and Massachusetts as the third state to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage with the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling to uphold the freedom to marry in Kerrigan and Mock v. the CT Department of Public Health on October 10, 2008. The case was brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders on behalf of eight same-sex couples who sought to end marriage discrimination in Connecticut.
- April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court became the fourth state high court to uphold the freedom to marry under the state constitution.
Key Quotes from the Iowa Supreme Court’s Unanimous Decision in Varnum v. Brien
April 3, 2009
Written by Justice Mark S. Cady with the other 6 justices concurring, the decision holds that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the Iowa Constitution's equal protection guarantee.
Kerrigan and Mock v. the CT Department of Public Health.—Connecticut Ends Gay Couples' Exclusion from Marriage
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruling to uphold the freedom to marry in Kerrigan and Mock v. the CT Department of Public Health. (Decision pdf)
Martinez v. County of Monroe—NY Court Affirms Same-Sex Couples' Marriages from Elsewhere
In a unanimous decision, a New York appellate court ruled that marriages of same-sex couples entered into outside of New York must be recognized. The case, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, is the first appellate court decision in the state and the first known decision in the country to hold that a valid same-sex marriage must be recognized here. While it is good and right that marriage should be honored, not destabilized, New Yorkers should not have to leave their home to get married. (Decision pdf)
In re: Marriage Cases—CA Court Upholds Marriage Equality for Gay Couples
May 15, 2008
California's highest court determines that "limiting the designation of marriage to a union 'between a man and a woman' is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples." (Decision pdf)
Varnum v. Brien—IA District Court Says Same-Sex Couples Must Be Allowed to Marry
In a powerful, closely reasoned 63-pp. decision released on August 30, 2007, an Iowa trial court struck down the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. The court found that the denial of marriage harms couples and their kids, while helping no one and serving no legitimate government interest. The ruling was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court which is pending a decision. (Decision pdf)
Goodridge v. Department of Public Health—MA Court First to Uphold Marriage Equality for Gay Couples
November 18, 2003
On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that there is no rational basis under the law to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples. On May 17, 2004, marriage licenses began to be issued to same-sex couples in Massachusetts. (Decision pdf)
Responding to Claims of Judicial Tyranny (pdf)
The Task Force provides an argument against 'judicial tyranny.'
And Justice For All? Litigation, Politics, and the State of Marriage Equality Today
In this ACS Issue Brief, Professor Goldberg examines the current state of marriage equality litigation, and argues that eight arguments commonly adopted by proponents of marriage discrimination are legally flawed.
Challenging Claims of Judicial Tyranny:
Testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee (pdf)
Sean Cahill from the Task Force provides testimony to the U.s. Senate Judiciary Committee concerning Bush's statements about 'activist judges' following the Massachusetts marriage decision, and how these statements are a threat to the American judicial system.
Read news about courts and judges around the country facing issues that arise because gay and lesbian couples are denied the freedom to marry.
VIDEO: Supreme Court oral arguments on same sex marriage case
Monday, May 14, when Senior Attorney Ben Klein appeared before the Connecticut Supreme Court in Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health. The case challenges Connecticut's exclusion of lesbian and gay couples from full marriage equality. After two and a half years, the eight plaintiff couples in the case finally have their day in court.
VIDEO: Oral arguments in MD
Video archive of oral arguments in the case of Frank Conaway et al. v. Gitanjali Deane et al. in the Court of Appeals of Maryland regarding the question: Does Maryland law prohibit the marriage of two persons of the same gender?
May 22, 2008
Evan Wolfson writes, "Last week, the highest court in our nation's biggest state got it right: Excluding loving committed couples from marriage harms them and their families and helps no one. Exclusion also violates the constitution's command of equality for all. American values of fairness and inclusion really do matter and apply to gay and non-gay people alike." [link]
June 12, 2007
Evan Wolfson and civil rights attorney Bernard S. Cohen, who argued the Loving's case, write together about Loving v. Virginia as a milestone in racial equality, an important vindication of marriage as a cherished civil right, and a testament to the importance of fighting for equality, rather than sitting by silently, indifferently, or complacently in the face of cruel exclusion. [link]
In a powerful, closely reasoned 63-pp. decision in Lambda Legal's historic lawsuit released on August 30, 2007, an Iowa trial court struck down the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. The court found that the denial of marriage harms couples and their kids, while helping no one and serving no legitimate government interest. The ruling is a victory for families and fairness in America's heartland. Read the Iowa decision here (pdf)
November 15, 2006
In this ACS Issue Brief, Professor Goldberg examines the current state of marriage equality litigation, and argues that eight arguments commonly adopted by proponents of marriage discrimination are legally flawed. [link]