State Legal Cases
A number of state legal cases are currently making their way through the state and federal court system. Same-sex couples in Nevada, Hawaii, Illinois and California are suing representatives from their states in order to combat state-wide bans on the freedom to marry or attack constitutional amendments that explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marriage protections. Freedom to Marry will be updating this page with developments in each case, linking to relevant blog material and external resources to help you keep tabs on all of the lawsuits.
Nevada: Sevcik v. Sandoval
- On April 10, 2012 the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for eight same-sex couples in Nevada who had previously been denied marriage licenses. Nevada has had a broad domestic partnership bill for same-sex couples since October 2009.
- The couples argue that their rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are being violated, since they have been denied the freedom to marry in Nevada.
- The court must now decide whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
- On August 10, 2012, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada agreed to hear the case, permitting the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to intervene as a defendant in the case.
- On November 29, 2012, Judge Robert C. Jones ruled against Nevada's same-sex couples and said that the state's current laws on respect for relationships between same-sex couples (which grant same-sex couples many, but not all, of the protections and responsibilities that marriage provides) do not violate the Equal Protection Clause.
- On December 3, 2012, Lambda Legal appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hawaii: Jackson v. Abercrombie
- On December 7, 2011 Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid filed a lawsuit against Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Loretta J. Fuddy, Director of Health for the State of Hawaii after being denied a marriage license on November 18, 2011. In Hawaii, same-sex couples have been permitted to enter into civil unions since January 2012.
- Gary Bradley, one of the first men to enter a same-sex civil union in Hawaii, joined Jackson v. Abercrombie as a plaintiff. Bradley wants to be able to change his foreign-born partner's immigration status through marriage, something he is unable to do because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act's discriminatory policy against a same-sex couples.
- U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay is currently hearing the case while Honolulu attorney John D'Amato is representing the plaintiffs.
- In February 2012, Gov. Abercrombie said he would not defend the state's discriminatory marriage law, saying, "My obligation as Governor is to support equality under law. This is inequality, and I will not defend it."
- In April 2012, Judge Kay allowed Hawaii Family Forum, a Christian advocacy group, to intervene in the lawsuits, arguing that Gov. Abercrombie be dropped from the suit, as he does not oversee the issuance of marriage licenses.
- On August 8, 2012, Judge Kay ruled against Jackson and Kleid, upholding the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Hawaii. He wrote, "Nationwide citizens are engaged in a robust debate over this divisive social issue. If the traditional institution of marriage is to be reconstructed, as sought by the plaintiffs, it should be done by a democratically elected legislature or the people through a constitutional amendment."
- The plaintiffs now may choose to appeal the ruling. If they do, Gov. Abercrombie has said that he would support them in their efforts to appeal the decision.
Illinois: Darby v. Orr
- On May 30, 2012 Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed two separate lawsuits against Cook County Clerk David Orr on behalf of 25 same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. During the month of May 2012, each of the 25 couples had applied for a marriage license at the Cook County clerk's office in Chicago but was rejected.
- The lawsuit directly challenges the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 16-year-old law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and disallows Illinois from recognize out-of-state gay marriages. Same-sex couples have been permitted to enter into civil unions, which provide some of the protections of marriage, since June 2011.
- On June 2, 2012, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested to intervene in the cases in order to advocate for the freedom to marry. The defendant, David Orr, has also applauded the lawsuits and spoken about his support for marriage for all couples.
- On June 21, 2012 a Cook County judge consolidated the two cases - Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr - into a single lawsuit.
California: Perry v. Brown
- On May 23, 2009, the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a citizens' initiative that repealed the freedom to marry in the state. Prop 8 passed at the ballot on November 4, 2008. Prop 8 overturned a May 2008 decision from the California Supreme Court legalizing marriage for same-sex couples across the state.
- The plaintiffs in the case are Kris Perry & Sandra Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, two couples who saw their applications for marriage licenses refused. The defendant was then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- On January 11, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker began the trial, in the process becoming the first federal court to consider whether same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. The plaintiffs and defendants laid out evidence to support or reject the concept that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Judge Walker heard closing arguments on June 16, 2010.
- On August 4, 2010, Judge Walker released a 136-page ruling that found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional and discriminatory. He wrote, "California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians," and "Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriage on an equal basis."
- Proponents of Prop 8 immediately sought to stay the ruling and appeal the decision, forcing the suit into another round of trials and legal proceedings. On December 6, 2010, a three-panel judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in the appeals case.
- On February 7, 2012, the Court affirmed the previous federal court ruling to find Prop 8 unconstitutional. The decision reads: "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."
- Proponents of Prop 8 petitioned for an en banc rehearing of the case, asking for the case to be retried by an 11-judge panel.
- On June 5, 2012 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request for an en banc rehearing. The Court has now put its decision on hold for 90 days to allow time for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- On July 31, 2012, supporters of Prop 8 filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the case and make a final ruling in the lawsuit.
- On August 24, 2012, the lawyers representing the gay and lesbian plaintiffs in the case filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to review the Prop 8 case.
- On December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would be reviewing the Proposition 8 case, now Hollingsworth v. Perry, in 2013.
- The case is scheduled for oral arguments on March 26, 2013, and a ruling from the Supreme Court is likely in June 2013.