It seems like every time I come up with a good health policy post, marriage equality momentum moves forward as well. That said, I’m not complaining.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris struck down the ban on marriage between same-sex couples today in Montana, ruling in favor of the freedom to marry. Judge Morris’ ruling is set to take effect immediately.
Shortly after the decision, the Montana Attorney General announced that he will appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, although the 9th Circuit Court has already ruled against similar bans on same-sex marriage. A decision to seek a stay of the ruling has not yet been determined.
The Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, supports the freedom to marry.
In his ruling, Judge Morris says regarding same-sex couples:
These families want for their children what all families in Montana want. They want to provide a safe and loving home in which their children have the chance to explore the world in which they live. They want their children to have the chance to discover their place in this world. And they want their children to have the chance to fulfill their highest dreams. These families, like all of us, want their children to adventure into the world without fear of violence; to achieve all that their talent and perseverance allows without fear of discrimination; and to love themselves so that they can love others. No family wants to deprive its precious children of the chance to marry the loves of their lives. Montana no longer can deprive Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves.
Two federal judges made history today by ruling for marriage equality – one in Kansas and one in South Carolina.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel issued a ruling in South Carolina, declaring that state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Judge Gergel ruled in favor of Colleen Condon and Ann Bleckley, a same-sex couple who filed a lawsuit against the state when they were denied a marriage license after applying for one and paying the filing fee in early October.
In the ruling, Judge Gergel granted the state’s motion for a temporary stay on issuing gay marriage licenses until Nov. 20. Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson are expected to appeal the decision, however the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals already ruled on similar cases in Virginia, overturning that state’s marriage equality ban.
And today in Kansas, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ordered Kansas to stop enforcing its discriminatory ban on marriages for same-sex couples. In his decision, Judge Crabtree noted that “Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban does not differ in any meaningful respect from the Utah and Oklahoma laws the Tenth Circuit found unconstitutional.” Crabtree felt that the 10th Circuit Court’s precedent was binding, as Kansas falls under the 10th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction.
The state now has the option to appeal today’s order to the Tenth Circuit, which has already ruled such marriage bans unconstitutional.
Interestingly, Kansas and South Carolina were both holdout states, as the federal Circuit Courts that have jurisdiction of the two states both ruled earlier this year that bans on marriage equality violate the US Constitution. Those rulings were allowed to stand when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the cases on appeal, paving the way for marriage equality to become law in all states within the Tenth and Fourth Circuits.
After the country sobered up following the midterm elections, the courts decided to add fuel back to the fire and decide on some critical marriage equality cases.
The day after the election, a state judge in Missouri overtunred the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in a written ruling that Missouri’s measure recognizing marriage only between a man and woman violates the due process and equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster immediately appealed the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, but he said that his office wouldn’t seek a stay of the order, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant stays after same-sex marriage decisions in Idaho and Alaska. The decision not to stay the ruling meant that couples in St Louis County could immediately apply for marriage licenses in the Show Me State.
The ruling ran counter to a remarkably rapid string of victories for the gay rights movement over the past few months that have now made same-sex marriage legal in at least 30 states. More than 20 court victories for supporters of same-sex marriage have been handed down since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, including decisions by the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Circuit Courts. Just last month, the Supreme Court surprisingly turned away appeals from five states seeking to uphold their same-sex marriage bans.
The decision by the 6th Circuit Court undoubtedly mounts increased pressure on the Supreme Court to act on the issue of marriage equality. Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey suggested as much in her dissenting opinion, where she blasted her colleagues, saying their majority opinion failed to address the issues of whether a state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Daughtrey wrote:
Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court, inadvisably, when they should be out campaigning to win ‘the hearts and minds’ of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee voters to their cause.
But these plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status … with their married neighbors, friends, and coworkers, to be accepted as contributing members of their social and religious communities, and to be welcomed as fully legitimate parents at their children’s schools. They seek to do this by virtue of exercising a civil right that most of us take for granted — the right to marry.
She added that it was “ironic that irresponsible, unmarried, opposite-sex couples in the Sixth Circuit who produce unwanted offspring must be ‘channeled’ into marriage and thus rewarded with its many psychological and financial benefits, while same-sex couples who become model parents are punished for their responsible behavior by being denied the right to marry.”
As a physician and a public health advocate, you would think I’d have plenty to write about the Ebola outbreak. To be honest, the whole situation has left me rather uninspired, mainly due to the ridiculous hysteria surrounding the disease in the US media. That said, the current outbreak has made some things particularly clear.
- Americans don’t care about events in other parts of the world… until it affects our own borders.
- Americans are terribly uneducated in geography.
- In a battle between science and fear/hysteria, science will always lose.
- Any issue, no matter how apolitical, can be turned into a political weapon… by both parties.
- Our country continues to misfear.
- We expect our health care system to save us in times of crisis despite complaining about it constantly.
- We underestimate the importance of public health (see number 6).
- Only one person in the United States has died from Ebola, and only one person is currently under treatment.
- There have already been deaths from the flu this season, including a child who died this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled today against Wyoming’s law banning marriage equality for same-sex couples. Judge Skavdahl granted a temporary stay and the ruling will not go into effect until October 23 or until state government officials say they are not appealing the decision. In his ruling, Judge Skavdahl wrote, “The court understands that every day where same-sex couples are denied their constitutional rights is another day filled with irreparable harm.”
Wyoming’s Governor Matt Meade has previously said that the state should not appeal the district court’s decision if the ban is struck down.
Judge Skavdahl’s ruling came hours after a similar ruling in Arizona, although the judge in Arizona refused to issue a stay. If Governor Meade’s statement is any indication, marriage equality will be swiftly coming to Wyoming.
Today, October 17, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedgwick ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Arizona in a federal legal case that challenged the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment.
Judge Sedgwick also refused to place a stay on his decision, meaning marriages could begin almost immediately.
Arizona geographically falls under the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which recently ruled in favor of mariage equality in both Idaho and Nevada. Arizona’s Attorney General has said that he will decide on Monday, October 20 whether or not he will appeal the ruling. Given the 9th Circuit’s prior rulings, it is highly unlikely that any appeal would be successful.
While I was away for the long weekend, several key victories occurred for marriage equality. In case you missed them as well – a quick little wrap up for you.
North Carolina – On Friday, October 10, a federal judge in North Carolina agreed that the ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in the 4th Circuit also applies to North Carolina’s state constitutional Amendment 1, which bans same-sex couples from marrying. In the ruling, Judge Cogburn wrote:
The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.
Same-sex couples were immediately issued marriage licenses on Friday.
Alaska - On Sunday evening, a federal judge struck down Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled that the state’s ban was unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess wrote that any relationship between the ban and government interests was “either nonexistent or purely speculative.” In the ruling, he states,
Alaska’s same-sex marriage laws are a prime example of how ‘the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that we can only conclude that the legislature’s actions were irrational. [...] Refusing the rights and responsibilities afforded by legal marriage sends the public a government-sponsored message that same-sex couples and their familial relationships do not warrant the status, benefits, and dignity given to couples of the opposite sex.
Alaska’s governor has already announced plans to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, although that court ruled against similar bans in Nevada and Idaho. You can already hear Sarah Palin having a coronary.
Idaho - The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has dissolved the stay blocking same-sex marriage in Idaho, announcing that couples may begin marrying on Wednesday morning.
On Oct. 7, the 9th Circuit Court struck down both Idaho and Nevada’s gay marriage bans. Marriages were allowed to begin immediately in Nevada, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay after a last-minute appeal by Idaho officials, temporarily putting same-sex marriages on hold in the state. On Oct. 10, the nation’s highest court said Idaho could proceed with same-sex marriages.
The West Virginia Attorney General announced today that his office will no longer fight a court challenge to West Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a statement Thursday that his office “will respect” the recent U.S. Supreme Court declining to review the 4th Circuit Court’s ruling in July striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages.
U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers in Huntington had previously put West Virginia’s case on hold. On Tuesday, Chamber ordered the state and clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties to respond to a motion by plaintiffs by Oct. 21.
West Virginia’s Governor Earl Ray Tomblin added:
I do not plan to take any actions that would seek to overturn the courts’ decisions. West Virginia will uphold the law according to these rulings, and I have directed state agencies to take appropriate action to make that possible. Our state is known for its kindness and hospitality to residents and visitors alike. I encourage all West Virginians—regardless of their personal beliefs—to uphold our statewide tradition of treating one another with dignity and respect.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled today in pending appeals on marriage equality bans in Idaho and Nevada. The court, led by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, struck down the gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. The ruling comes a day after the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage in 5 more states and opened the door in 6 other states when it rejected a set of appeals.
The appeals court ruled that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the bans. Judge Stephen Reinhardt said during oral arguments in September that he expects the Supreme Court ultimately will decide whether gay marriage bans are constitutional.
The opinion, issued by Judge Reinhardt, reads:
We hold that the Idaho and Nevada laws at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex.
Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.
Last week, the US Supreme Court announced its 2014-2015 case docket, and much to the dismay of LGBT advocates, the Court revealed they had yet to add a marriage equality case to their calender. In a a supreme move (see what I did there), the Court announced that they would not hear an appeal from five states seeking to prohibit same-sex marriages, paving the way for an immediate expansion of marriage equality.
The justices on Monday did not comment in rejecting appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, immediately ending delays on marriage in those states. The decision also makes appeals court decisions in the 4th, 7th, and 10th circuit courts the law of the land, making marriage equality likely to come in 6 more states for a total of 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Huge. Epic. Monumental.
The US Census Bureau released figures this week of the uninsured rate in America’s major metropolitan areas.
Seven of the largest metro areas where the uninsured rate was higher than the 14.5% percent national average are located in states that refused to expand Medicaid – 2 in Florida, 3 in Texas, and 1 in Georgia and North Carolina each. The metro area with the highest uninsured rate was Miami, at a staggering 25%, compared to the national low of 4% in greater Boston.
May we never forget…
Tradition per se has no positive or negative significance. There are good traditions, bad traditions pilloried in such famous literary stories as Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, bad traditions that are historical realities such as cannibalism, foot-binding, and suttee, and traditions that from a public-policy standpoint are neither good nor bad (such as trick-or-treating on Halloween). Tradition per se therefore cannot be a lawful ground for discrimination – regardless of the age of the tradition.
Wisconsin points out that many venerable customs appear to rest on nothing more than tradition – one might even say on mindless tradition. Why do men wear ties? Why do people shake hands (thus spreading germs) or give a peck on the cheek (ditto) when greeting a friend? Why does the President at Thanksgiving spare a brace of turkeys (two out of the more than 40 million turkeys killed for Thanksgiving dinners) from the butcher’s knife? But these traditions, while to the fastidious may seem silly, are at least harmless. If no social benefit is conferred by a tradition and it is written into law and it discriminates against a number of people and does them harm beyond just offending them, it is not just a harmless anachronism; it is a violation of the equal protection clause…
- Judge Richard Posner, U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the panels unanimous decision striking down the appeal of Indiana and Wisconsin same-sex marriage bans
Yesterday, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana is the first ruling in over a year to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage, and therefore to uphold discrimination. Judge Feldman’s court is also the only federal court to uphold a marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act last year.
In his ruling, Judge Feldman wrote, “The Court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid.”
While Judge Feldman’s ruling is certainly an upsetting setback for the LGBT community, particularly in Louisiana, the ruling underscores the necessity of a definitive Supreme Court ruling. Hopefully Judge Feldman will be the lone dissenting voice in history and quickly find himself on the wrong side of history.
Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced that the state had worked out an alternative Medicaid expansion plan with the federal government, bringing 500,000 low-income Pennsylvanians to the Medicaid rolls.
According to numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 281,000 of those people were falling into what’s known as the “coverage gap.” All state Medicaid programs generally cover some low-income adult populations with certain stipulations – for example, those with disabilities or single mothers. Under the original terms of the Affordable Care Act, states would “expand Medicaid eligibility” to all low-income adults earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level (roughly $15,500). In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ACA, states no longer were obligated to expand Medicaid eligibility. These people fall in the gap, they don’t qualify for a non-expanded Medicaid but also don’t get subsidies for purchasing insurance on their own since they don’t make more than the federal poverty level either. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 4.5 million people across the country fall into this coverage gap.
Currently, 23 states aren’t expanding Medicaid – but there are rumblings that a few more may follow in Pennsylvania’s footsteps.
After a series of state district courts in Florida ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a federal District Court judge came to the same determination today.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled today that the Florida ban violates the “due process” and “equal protection” provisions in the U.S. Constitution. The state’s ban was first put into law in 1977 and then written into the state’s constitution after a 2008 referendum. Judge Hinkle’s ruling applies both to whether same-sex couples can marry in Florida as well as whether their marriages elsewhere should be recognized in the Sunshine State.
In his ruling, Hinkle writes,
The founders of this nation said in the preamble to the United States Constitution that a goal was to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. Liberty has come more slowly for some than for others. It was 1967, nearly two centuries after the Constitution was adopted, before the Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, thus protecting the liberty of individuals whose chosen life partner was of a different race. Now, nearly 50 years later, the arguments supporting the ban on interracial marriage seem an obvious pretext for racism; it must be hard for those who were not then of age to understand just how sincerely those views were held. When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.
He also writes, “The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional. So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages.”
Hinkle’s immediately stayed his ruling pending a likely appeal.
In case you’ve become confusing with the dizzying number of court cases regarding same-sex marriage, and you’re looking for a place to find all the info in one spot – look no further. A few months ago, The Guardian published an awesome infographic about LGBT rights in the United States – state by state. Below is the main infographic, but check out the website where they break each of the right down and cluster them into areas of the country. It’s pretty amazing that for how much progress has been made, some areas – namely the Southeast – still have a lot of work to do.
Let’s say you live in New Jersey and find a better insurance plan across the river in New York. Sorry. You’re out of luck. But don’t worry, you’re told. Your state insurance regulators are doing their job, upholding standards and protecting your interests. Naturally, they can’t protect you in another state. So you pay more.
This makes little sense. You regularly cross the Hudson River for dinner on the town – and entrust your health to New York restaurant regulators. You drive through a tunnel and count on highway safety as regulated by New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles. But out-of-staters cannot buy insurance there. Ask yourself this: Who are those law protecting?
Jonathan Bush doesn’t directly say it, but clearly these laws are protecting insurance companies…