Finishing the Job: How marriage is moving forward in the final 13 states

Editors' Note: Freedom to Marry will update this post throughout the next few weeks as movement for marriage shifts and develops in the states where same-sex couples are still denied the freedom to marry. Last Updated 2/20 with updates from Texas and Nebraska

It's already been a historic start to 2015, with the freedom to marry coming to Florida and Alabama, and the United States Supreme Court granting review of the freedom to marry, with a decision expected by June 2015. Same-sex couples can now marry in a total of 37 states, as well as in some Missouri counties. 

Freedom to Marry has always been committed to winning marriage for same-sex couples nationwide - and now, as momentum surges across the country, it is so critical for supporters to do all they can to speak out for the freedom to marry nationwide. Here's what's going on in the 13 states where same-sex couples continue to be denied the freedom to marry - and even as we work toward making the case to the Supreme Court, legal maneuvers are happening each day in these remaining states, many moving toward the freedom to marry for all. Every day of denial in these states is a day too long - and the past year of momentum demonstrates more clearly than ever: America is ready for the freedom to marry. (Thanks to Equality Case Files' Kathleen Perrin for all of the consistent, reliable files)

States in the 6th Circuit

On January 16, the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of an out-of-step ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding marriage discrimination and reversing six pro-marriage rulings from the previous year. The Court will hear the marriage cases in April 2015, with a decision (which could impact the freedom to marry nationwide) as soon as June 2015. 

KENTUCKY

The plaintiffs and legal teams in Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear (two federal marriage cases seeking the freedom to marry in KY and respect for marriages performed in other states) are busy at work making the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal challenges were brought by private firms Fauver Law Office and Clay Daniel Walton & Adams and later joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and Jeffrey F. Fisher from the Stanford Law School joined the case.

MICHIGAN

The plaintiffs and legal team in DeBoer v. Snyder (federal marriage cases seeking the freedom to marry in MI) are hard at work readying their case to the United States Supreme Court for oral argument this spring. The legal challenge is led by private counsel Kenneth M. Mogill, Dana M. Nessel, Robert A. Sedler, and Carole M. Stanyar, with Mary Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders joining the case.

Meanwhile, on February 4, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that he and the state would not appeal a January 15 decision in Caspar v. Snyder, a federal court case seeking respect in Michigan for the 300+ marriage licenses issued by the state of Michigan in March 2014, following the ruling in DeBoer and prior to the granting of a stay by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision not to appeal means that these 300+ same-sex couples will be respected as married once and for all in Michigan and federally. 

Michigan for Marriage, a coalition that Freedom to Marry has been proud to found and lead, is continuing to highlight grassroots support for the freedom to marry. 

OHIO

The plaintiffs and legal team in Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges (federal marriage cases seeking respect in OH for marriages legally performed in other states) are also readying their case for the U.S. Supreme Court. Both cases were filed by Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA, with the ACLU joining Obergefell and Lambda Legal joining Henry

Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a coalition that Freedom to Marry has been proud to found and lead, is continuing to highlight grassroots support for the freedom to marry.

TENNESSEE

The plaintiffs and legal team in Tanco v. Haslam (federal marriage case seeking respect in TN for marriages legally performed in other states) are preparing to make the case for the freedom to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court this April. The case was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as attorneys Abby Rubenfeld, the law firm of Sherrard & Roe, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert. Read the Petition.

States in the 5th Circuit

On January 9, 2015, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments in three federal marriage cases - one from Texas and one from Mississippi, in which the state's marriage bans were struck down in February and November 2014, and one from Louisiana, in which a federal judge issued one of the few federal rulings upholding marriage discrimination. A ruling is still pending in the cases. 

TEXAS (Updated 2/20)

Federal Case at the 5th Circuit: An oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in a federal marriage case, De Leon v. Perry, occurred on January 9, 2015. Earlier in the fall, dozens of amici briefs were filed in the case, including one signed by more than 200 faith leaders and one by dozens of Texas First Responders for the Freedom to Marry. The case is being led by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Motion to Lift Stay: On February 12, counsel in the case filed a request to the 5th Circuit requesting that the stay in the ruling be lifted even as they continue to consider a decision in the case. The request also adds that if the appellate court will not lift the stay statewide that they at least respect the marriage of Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra DeLeon, who are expecting a child, for the purpose of naming both women on the child's birth certificate. 

Ruling in State Court: On February 17, Travis County probate judge Guy Herman ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Texas, striking down the state’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples. The ruling was in the case Estate of Stella Marie Powell, brought by private lawyer Brian Thompson, who filed a case on behalf of Sonemaly Phrasavath’s marriage to her late partner, Stella Powell. The case is seeking respect as Stella’s spouse for the purpose of fulfilling Stella’s will.

First Marriage License Issued: Following the February 17 ruling, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said that she would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as of now, but she commended the judge for his order and said she would review the decision. Two days later, on February 19, a separate state judge - David Wahlberg - issued a Temporary Restraining Order for Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend, citing emergency medical reasons that the couple must be issued a marriage license. The decision was limited to Suzanne and Sarah. 

Appeal of State Court Rulings: Shortly after the rulings were issued in state court, the Texas Attorney General appealed the decisions, and on February 20, the Texas Supreme Court placed both decisions on hold. The Attorney General is also seeking to reverse both decisions. It is unclear the immediate impact of the appeal, but we will be keeping tabs on the developing situation. 

In November 2014, Freedom to Marry was proud to launch, in partnership with Equality Texas, Texas for Marriage, a new campaign dedicated to amplifying the voices of same-sex couples and the wide breadth of support from Texans of all walks of life. 

LOUISIANA

Federal Case at the 5th Circuit: An oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in this federal marriage case, Robicheaux v. George, was held on January 9, 2015. The case seeks to overturn an out-of-step ruling from a federal judge, issued September 2014, one of just two federal marriage cases that have received anti-marriage rulings this year. Lambda Legal has joined the case as counsel. 

Ruling in State Court: A separate case, Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, is pending before the Louisiana Supreme Court. In this case, a Circuit Judge ruled in favor of the freedom to marry this fall, requiring Louisiana to respect the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states and affirming that the anti-marriage amendment in Louisiana violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. The ruling was nearly immediately appealed by the state, triggering the decision to be placed on hold. 

MISSISSIPPI

Federal Case at the 5th Circuit: An oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in this federal case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant was held on January 9, 2015. In the case, a federal judge struck down Mississippi's marriage ban.

The lead attorney, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, led the case that brought down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013. Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi. The couples are Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett, who want to marry in their home state, and Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb, who are fighting for their marriage in Maine to be respected back home. You can read more about the legal case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, HERE. 

States in the 11th Circuit

Two federal marriage cases are currently before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit - pro-marriage rulings from Florida and Alabama. In February, the 11th Circuit placed both appeals on hold and indicated that the Court would do the same with all other marriage cases until the United States Supreme Court rules in Obergefell. The 11th Circuit, however, allowed the marriage rulings to take effect in both Florida and Alabama. 

FLORIDA

The Freedom to Marry in FL: The freedom to marry took effect statewide in Florida on January 6, 2015, following pro-marriage rulings in Brenner v. Armstrong, filed by private counsel, and Grimsley and Albu v. Secretary, Florida Dept. of Health, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of SAVE and same-sex couples. Same-sex couples were able to marry one day earlier in Miami-Dade County when a circuit court judge lifted her stay in Pareto v. Ruvin, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Florida. Hundreds of same-sex couples have married in Florida since January 6. A ruling from the United States Supreme Court in favor of marriage for same-sex couples would settle any question about the freedom to marry and ensure that the Sunshine State has the freedom to marry once and for all.

Freedom to Marry has been proud to partner with Equality Florida for the past year making the case for the freedom to marry state-wide, and we look forward to continuing this partnership this spring to show that all of America is ready for marriage nationwide. 

GEORGIA

Federal Case: In January 2015, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. released an order in Lambda Legal’s case seeking the freedom to marry in Georgia, Inniss v. Aderhold. In the order, Judge Duffey granted, in part, a motion to stay the proceedings in the case. But he also certified an earlier order in the case – his January 8 order denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case – for immediate appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Judge Duffey did not rule on the constitutionality of Georgia’s marriage ban, instead indicating that the 11th Circuit should review the case before he issues an order

With the 11th Circuit placing a hold on its marriage cases in Alabama and Florida, this case is unlikely to move forward this spring until resolution on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Freedom to Marry has been proud to partner with Georgia Equality for the past year making the case for the freedom to marry state-wide, and we look forward to continuing this partnership this spring. 

ALABAMA

The Freedom to Marry in AL: The freedom to marry took effect in Alabama on February 9, 2015, following two rulings from a federal judge in Alabama. Nearly a dozen counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples that day, and currently, 51 of the 67 probate judges are issuing marriage licenses, many taking direction from an injunction issued against the Mobile County probate judge on February 12. Hundreds of same-sex couples have married in the state since February 9. A ruling from the United States Supreme Court in favor of marriage for same-sex couples would settle any questions and ensure that same-sex couples in Alabama have the freedom to marry once and for all.

Momentum Building for Statewide Resolution: The situation has been somewhat complicated in Alabama, since on February 8, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, in a last-ditch attempt to delay the freedom to marry, issued a directive to probate judges ordering that they not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. For the next week, some counties stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether, confused about which order to follow - Chief Justice Moore's or the federal judge's. Marriage supporters across the state called for all probate judges to follow the law, which was allowed to take effect not only by the federal judge, but also by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

The week of February 18, the Alabama Supreme Court is considering a petition from two private, anti-marriage organizations on the question of whether probate judges must issue marriage licenses. A ruling is expected on that question soon, but no matter what the ruling, the answer is clear: Probate judges in Alabama should issue marriage licenses to all couples and follow the law. 

At the same time this week, federal judge Granade has been asked to issue an order enforcing her injunction, which could require all probate judges to issue licenses. A motion is also pending before Judge Granade from Jefferson County probate judge Alan King seeking an injunction legally requiring him to issue licenses. 

Freedom to Marry has been proud to partner with Equality Alabama this year on the ground. Keep up to date with updates from the state with Equality Alabama. 

States in the 8th Circuit

In the 8th Circuit, three federal marriage cases have received rulings this year, with rulings from Missouri, South Dakota, and Arkansas now on appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 8th Circuit has set a briefing schedule, with the plaintiffs' briefs due March 19 and an oral argument to be scheduled for the week of May 11-15.  Other challenges are pending in North Dakota and Nebraska. In Minnesota and Iowa, same-sex couples already have the freedom to marry. 

ARKANSAS

Ruling in State Court: A decision is still pending in a state marriage case, Wright v. Smith, which was considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court on November 20. On January 1, several new members of the Arkansas Supreme Court were sworn in, and a further decision in the marriage case could be delayed because of this court turnover. It is unclear whether there will be need for an additional oral argument in the case - a motion from the defendants is still pending. Previously in the case, supporters of the freedom to marry across Arkansas - including 43 faith leaders in Arkansas and dozens of First Responders - filed "friend-of-the-court" briefs in the case. The case is being led by private counsel Jack Wagoner and Cheryl Maples.

Motion to Lift Stay: Pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court is a motion from the plaintiffs in the case to lift the stay, following a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court denying a request for a stay in an Alabama marriage ruling. No decision has yet been issued on that motion.

Federal Case at the 8th Circuit: A separate case, Jernigan v. Crane, will be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit this spring, with the plaintiffs' brief due March 19 and an oral argument expected the week of May 11-15. The appeal is in a November 2014 decision from U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, and the case is being led by private counsel Jack Wagoner and Cheryl Maples. In early December, same-sex couples delivered more than 1,100 signatures from Arkansas marriage supporters urging Attorney General McDaniel to let the ruling stand. 

Federal Case Seeking Respect for Marriages: A third Arkansas case was filed on Saturday, February 14 (also by Cheryl Maples) seeking respect for the 500-600 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in May, following a federal judge's ruling affirming that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. 

MISSOURI

Respect for Marriages - and the Freedom to Marry in Some Counties - in MO: Marriages between same-sex couples are officially respected in Missouri, following Attorney General Koster's decision not to appeal a ruling from October 3 in favor of respecting marriages between same-sex couples. In St. Louis, Missouri, a state judge declared that city officials must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and several counties followed suit in the state. The decision is being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, but no hold has been placed on this decision. 

Federal Case at the 8th Circuit: A separate case, Lawson v. Kelly, which would bring statewide resolution in Missouri, will be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit this spring, with the plaintiffs' brief due March 19 and an oral argument expected the week of May 11-15.

Motion to Lift Stay: Pending before the 8th Circuit now is a motion from the plaintiffs in the case to lift the stay, following a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court denying a request for a stay in an Alabama marriage ruling. No decision has yet been issued on that motion. 

NEBRASKA (Updated 2/20)

Federal Case: On February 19, a hearing was held in a federal marriage case from the ACLU, the ACLU of Nebraska and same-sex couples  -  Waters v. Heineman. Previously, the federal judge hearing the case denied a motion to put the case on hold pending resolution from the U.S. Supreme Court. Following the hearing, the judge called for additional briefs from the plaintiffs and defendants, due Monday, February 23. A ruling is expected shortly. 

Hearing Recap: Reporter Alissa Skelton live tweeted from the Nebraska hearing in Omaha on February 19. She wrote, "Judge Bataillon argues irreparable harm can be caused to children when both parents are not allowed to be adoptive parents of their child," adding that Judge Bataillon said to the Assistant Attorney General, "So marriage is a fundamental right only if it meets your definition?"

After the hearing, named plaintiffs Susan and Sally said, "Can Susan and I wait days? Well, yeah. Are other couples in a place where they can wait days? Maybe not. ... We want to make sure everyone has the right not just us."

NORTH DAKOTA

Federal Cases: Two federal legal challenges are pending seeking the freedom to marry in North Dakota, and a federal judge has placed both cases on hold pending resolution on marriage from the United States Supreme Court. The cases are Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, filed by Lambda Legal, and Ramsay v. Dalrymple, filed by Joshua Newville of Madia Law LLC.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Federal Case at the 8th Circuit: A federal marriage case, Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, will be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit this spring. A federal judge issued a ruling in the case in January 2015 in favor of the freedom to marry, with the decision on hold pending appeal. The case was filed by Joshua Newville of Madia Law LLC and Debra Voigt of Burd And Voigt Law Office, with the National Center for Lesbian Rights later joining. Joshua Newville is leading the plaintiffs' case before the 8th Circuit.

Motion to Lift Stay: Pending before the 8th Circuit now is a motion from the plaintiffs in the case to lift the stay, following a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court denying a request for a stay in an Alabama marriage ruling. No decision has yet been issued on that motion.

Other Areas Where Marriage is Moving Forward

PUERTO RICO

Federal Case at the 1st Circuit: A federal marriage case will be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit this spring. No oral argument is yet scheduled. A federal judge issued an out-of-step ruling upholding marriage discrimination this October, one of only two federal rulings against marriage for same-sex couples since June 2013. The case is being led by Lambda Legal. 

Note: Same-sex couples officially have the freedom to marry right now in Alaska, Idaho, North Carolina, and South Carolina, although opponents of the freedom to marry are still pursuing last-ditch attempts to reinstate harmful marriage bans, including asking the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari in their cases. Despite this, the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit - and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to deny review in the five marriage cases in October 2014 - indicate that their efforts are unlikely to succeed.