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As red numerals ticked away the minutes on a digital timer, lawyers fielded a barrage of questions from three federal appeals-court judges considering Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In a rapid-fire series of exchanges, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges repeatedly interrupted the lawyers and, at times, even one another. They directed Thursday’s discussion toward the role of parents in rearing children, the constitutional rights of gay couples and the right of states to govern their own affairs.

As viewed through a fisheye lens, Anna Simon of Denver carries a sign about the state of her marriage to her partner at a protest outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Denver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The protest, sponsored by Support Marriage Equality in Colorado, was held as a federal appeals court weighs inside the Denver courthouse whether to give an important victory to gay couples' right to marry in Utah and Oklahoma. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As viewed through a fisheye lens, Anna Simon of Denver carries a sign about the state of her marriage to her partner at a protest outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Denver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The protest, sponsored by Support Marriage Equality in Colorado, was held as a federal appeals court weighs inside the Denver courthouse whether to give an important victory to gay couples’ right to marry in Utah and Oklahoma. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The oral arguments in the Kitchen vs. Herbert case marked the first time that a state has defended its gay-marriage ban at the federal appellate level. It could take months for the judges to issue a ruling, and legal experts expect that the issue eventually will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Scores of gay-marriage supporters and traditional-marriage supporters have submitted friends-of-the-court briefs.

 

Euell Santistevan of Denver holds a rainbow flag during a protest outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Denver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The protest, sponsored by Support Marriage Equality in Colorado, was held as a federal appeals court weighs inside the Denver courthouse whether to give an important victory to gay couples' right to marry in Utah and Oklahoma. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Euell Santistevan of Denver holds a rainbow flag during a protest outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Denver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The protest, sponsored by Support Marriage Equality in Colorado, was held as a federal appeals court weighs inside the Denver courthouse whether to give an important victory to gay couples’ right to marry in Utah and Oklahoma. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 

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Plaintiff Derek Kitchen and his partner Moudi Sbeity outside the Byron White U.S. Courthouse. (Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post)

“I’m thrilled to be here with my partner,” said Derek Kitchen, kissing Moudi Sbeity outside the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in downtown Denver. “It was difficult to hear people arguing against us.”

About 100 spectators packed into the ornate courtroom with navy-blue carpet, wood molding and a glass-tiled ceiling with gold designs decorated with the seal of the United States. The three gay and lesbian couples who filed the lawsuit sat on a bench behind their attorneys’ table. They often smiled and squeezed each other’s shoulders.

An attorney for each side took turns standing at a lectern with the timer. Both were allowed to speak beyond the allotted 15 minutes, partly because of interruptions from the judges.

Two of the three justices on the panel seemed to telegraph their political inclinations with their questioning, while Jerome Holmes asked tough questions of both sides. Though appointed by President George W. Bush, Holmes and another circuit judge refused to stay a decision by a federal judge who found Utah’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. It allowed 1,335 gay and lesbian couples to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily restored the ban.

Judge Carlos F. Lucero, appointed by President Bill Clinton, frequently interrupted Gene Schaerr, an attorney for Utah who was the first to give oral arguments. Although Schaerr tried several times, he could never finish a four-tiered definition of marriage, which appeared to be a highlight of his argument.

When plaintiffs attorney Peggy Tomsic came to the podium, Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr., who rarely asked Schaerr questions, bored in, frequently cutting Tomsic off midsentence. Kelly was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

At one point, Lucero even interrupted a question by Kelly, who wanted Tomsic to explain whether there was something wrong with a state legislature defining its own state law. Before Tomsic could answer, Lucero asked whether constitutional law didn’t trump state laws.

Tomsic smiled at Lucero’s softball pitch and answered that constitutional law trumped legislative decisions when state laws infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens. Tomsic’s chief argument was that Utah’s ban on gay marriage violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

And so the hearing went.

Lucero asked Schaerr how Utah would treat children of a same-sex couple married in a state that allows gay marriages. The judge said it seemed to contradict Utah’s argument that the welfare of children was a major concern.

While acknowledging that children would be better off if their same-sex parents were married, Schaerr said it would likewise be better for thousands of children in polygamist households if they were allowed to legally marry.

“Let’s not talk about polygamy. Let’s talk about gay marriage,” Lucero said, setting off a peal of laughter through the courtroom.

Schaerr said the government has a legitimate interest in encouraging heterosexual marriages between a child’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex marriages would dilute that message, he said. A lesbian couple could conceive a child through artificial insemination and the child would not have a masculine role model, he said.

Schaerr told justices a key risk of gay marriage is that children are raised by someone other than their natural parents and that those children have a higher rate of criminal behavior. He said it also changes the primary role of marriage from being child-centric to adult-centric.

Later in the hearing, Kelly brought up polygamy again. He asked Tomsic why she would discriminate against polygamist households, if everyone has a right to marry.

Tomsic argued the gay-marriage ban violates the rights of only one class of citizen — same-sex couples.

“Every day, same-sex families face the stigma and harm of being treated like second-class citizens,” Tomsic said.

After the hearing, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes spoke with Kitchen and Sbeity. He said he told them the case was not intended to be personal.

Reyes also said the federalism argument will be the key to the court’s decision.

“We didn’t create a second class of people to harm them,” he said.

The same panel of judges will hear oral arguments in Oklahoma’s gay-marriage case next Thursday. Colorado has two same-sex marriage cases.

Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, denverpost.com/ coldcaseskmitchell or twitter.com/kmitchelldp

DENVER, CO. - APRIL 10:  Utah Plantiffs from left to right, Derek Kitchen and partner, Moudi Sbeity, Kate Call and partner, Karen Archer, Laurie Wood and partner, Kody Partridge, stand outside of the Byron White U.S. Courthouse during a press conference Thursday morning, April 10, 2014 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit listened to oral arguments on the gay marriage ban in Utah. (Photo By Andy Cross / The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO. – APRIL 10: Utah Plantiffs from left to right, Derek Kitchen and partner, Moudi Sbeity, Kate Call and partner, Karen Archer, Laurie Wood and partner, Kody Partridge, stand outside of the Byron White U.S. Courthouse during a press conference Thursday morning, April 10, 2014 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit listened to oral arguments on the gay marriage ban in Utah. (Photo By Andy Cross / The Denver Post)

Source: The Denver Post, “10th Circuit arguments on gay marriage ban focus on family, fairness,” By Kirk Mitchell, Posted:  04/10/2014 08:17:52 AM MDT | Updated:   about 10 hours ago

Plaintiffs on Utah’s Ban on Gay Marriage Two of the plaintiffs in a case challenging Utah’s ban on gay marriage, Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, discussed why they were pursuing the lawsuit. Photo: Jim Auley, The New York Times

Plaintiffs on Utah’s Ban on Gay Marriage
Two of the plaintiffs in a case challenging Utah’s ban on gay marriage, Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, discussed why they were pursuing the lawsuit.
Photo: Jim Auley, The New York Times

DENVER — The push for same-sex marriage, which has celebrated victory after victory in courtrooms across the country, entered an uncertain stage on Thursday as a federal appeals court appeared divided about whether the socially conservative state of Utah could limit marriage to a man and a woman.

In an hour of arguments inside a packed courtroom, three judges from the Federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit sparred with lawyers about how such bans affected the children of same-sex parents and whether preventing gay couples from marrying actually did anything to promote or strengthen heterosexual unions and families.

Judge Paul J. Kelly, who was nominated by the elder President Bush, appeared more deferential to Utah’s voters and its legislature while Judge Carlos F. Lucero, a Clinton appointee, asked pointed questions about whether Utah was stigmatizing children of gay couples. Legal observers said the deciding vote appeared to belong to Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, and lofted tough questions at both sides.

“Why does it matter who’s claiming the right?” Judge Holmes asked a lawyer representing Utah. “It’s a fundamental right, and why does it matter the participants in that enterprise? Why does it matter?”

Thursday’s arguments signaled the first time an appeals court had considered the issue since the Supreme Court handed two major victories to gay-rights supporters last summer, striking down a law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples and clearing the way for same-sex marriages across California.

It was a day freighted with emotion for gay-rights supporters and same-sex couples in Utah. Dozens flew to Denver from Utah to attend the arguments, lining up early Thursday morning for a seat in the courtroom. A conservative state lawmaker was one of a handful of supporters of the ban to attend the hearing. “Our lives are on the line here,” said Derek Kitchen, the plaintiff who lent his last name to the case — Kitchen v. Herbert. Gary R. Herbert is Utah’s Republican governor.

As Mr. Kitchen and the other plaintiffs chatted and exchanged reassuring pats on the shoulder in the courtroom, they were approached by Utah’s attorney general, Sean Reyes, whose office has taken the lead role in defending the same-sex marriage ban. Shaking hands and greeting the plaintiffs, Mr. Reyes crouched down and told them: “I’m sorry that we’re causing you pain. Sometime after the case is over, I hope we can sit down.”

After the hearing, Mr. Reyes said he had told the plaintiffs that the legal confrontation was not personal, and that he knew that the plaintiffs’ families were as important to them as his own was to him. But he said it was unclear what would happen to the unions and benefits of Utah’s newly married same-sex couples if the state prevailed in its appeals. Utah has previously raised the possibility that those marriages could be dissolved.

Separately, in Indiana on Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the state must, for now, recognize the same-sex marriage of a woman who is terminally ill. Nikole Quasney and Amy Sandler have two children and joined one of five lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last month, citing the need to have their relationship legally recognized in order to access benefits for surviving family members. Ms. Quasney received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2009; the couple married in Massachusetts last year.

Source:  The New York Times, “U.S. Court Seems Split on Utah Gay Marriage Ban,” by Jack Healy, April 10, 2014

DENVER—Gov. John Hickenlooper has come out as a supporter of gay marriage.

The Colorado Democrat has been a vocal backer of gay rights but generally stopped short of formally endorsing same-sex marriage. However, on Monday he provided a statement in support of a gay rights group that kicked off a campaign to bring gay marriage to Colorado.

“If all people are created equal,” Hickenlooper said in the statement, “then by extension of law, logic and love, every adult couple should also have the freedom to join in marriage.”

Hickenlooper last year signed a bill legalizing civil unions in Colorado, and spokesman Eric Brown said the governor has spoken at several gay marriage rallies. Hickenlooper is running for re-election this year. Colorado voters in 2006 banned gay marriage.

Gay rights groups on Monday pledged to pursue a ballot measure in 2016 to legalize gay marriage unless courts strike down Colorado’s ban first. Two lawsuits are making their way through state court to do just that.

Judges have struck down gay marriage bans in several conservative states recently. The appeals of those rulings will be heard in a federal court in Denver.

Colorado gay marriage supporters say if they lose in court, they will go to the ballot box to overturn the state’s ban.

Source: The Denver Post, “Colorado governor says he supports gay marriage,” The Associated Press, 03/04/2014 03:42:23 PM MST | Updated: a day ago

Santa Fe overwhelmingly elected its first openly gay mayor on Tuesday. Javier Gonzales easily won election with 43 percent of the vote versus two other opponents.

Gonzales gave his acceptance speech to chants of “Javier” on Tuesday night after the results came in, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Santa-Fe-Mayor-Javier-Gonzales-x400

Gonzales with his daughters Cameron, 15, and Cadence, 9.

Gonzales, 47, is the vice president of a commercial real estate company and the father of two daughters, Cameron, 15, and Cadence, 9. He was also a county commissioner and recently served as the chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. His campaign was won with dozens of intimate parties, eight community conversation events, and a political contacts list built up over two decades in public work. His father, George Gonzales, served as Santa Fe’s mayor from 1968-1972, and he served as his son’s campaign co-chairman.

“I stand before you humbled. I stand you before standing on the shoulders of people like [outgoing Mayor David] Coss and my father and so many who have been before in this position to say that I am ready to accept the responsibility and the honor of being your mayor,” he said.

Gonzales’s opponents, Bill Dimas and Patti Bushee, will retain their seats on the city council.

Now as mayor, he will preside over a city council with two openly gay members: Bushee, and Signe Lindell, who was also newly elected.

Source:  “Santa Fe Selects Its First Gay Mayor, Javier Gonzales | Advocate.com,” By Michelle Garcia, March 05 2014 2:13 PM ET

Evoking Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, a group of Western-state Republicans plans to enter the battle in favor of same-sex marriage on Tuesday, urging a federal appeals court to declare gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma unconstitutional.

The most prominent of the approximately 20 signers of the brief are former Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, a longtime supporter of gay rights, and former Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, who said last year that she had reconsidered her former opposition to same-sex marriage. The document says that “marriage is strengthened” and “the social stability of the family unit are promoted” by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The document is a friend-of-the-court brief, being filed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver. That court is hearing appeals from Utah and Oklahoma to reinstate their restrictive marriage laws.

The brief was the latest sign of widening cracks in Republican opposition to same-sex marriage, even deep in the country’s conservative heartland.

Last month, a New York Times/CBS News poll found a rapid shift in Republican attitudes nationwide. Forty percent of Republicans said same-sex marriage should be legal, up from 33 percent last May and only 24 percent in September 2012.

Sean Gallagher, a lawyer and Republican Party activist in Denver who helped prepare the brief, said many Republicans were rethinking their positions. “The themes of liberty and freedom resonate especially well in the West,” said Mr. Gallagher, who was chief counsel in Colorado for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

Early last year, dozens of Republicans, including four former governors and former White House officials, joined in a similar legal brief to the Supreme Court, arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry. Neither Mr. Simpson nor Ms. Kassebaum signed that document.

In December, a federal court in Utah overturned the state’s amendment restricting marriage to a man and a woman. In January, a federal court in Oklahoma struck down that state’s ban on gay marriage.

Utah and Oklahoma appealed, and the cases are on a fast track in Denver, with hearings scheduled in April.

If the appeals court upholds the current rulings, same-sex marriage could become legal throughout the judicial circuit — in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming — barring a counterdecision by the United States Supreme Court.

In other signs of change in the mountain West, in December the New Mexican Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a right to marry. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, accepted the decision as “the law of the land.”

In Nevada, the state prevailed in court in 2012 in its defense of marriage restrictions. The gay and lesbian plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, and last month Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, agreed to withdraw from the case, saying that defense of a same-sex marriage ban was not legally tenable.

A version of this article appears in print on March 4, 2014, on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Republicans From West Join Action on Marriage. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Source: The New York Times, “Republicans From the West Give Support for Gay Marriage,” By ERIK ECKHOLM, MARCH 3, 2014

By Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado

It’s a big day for Colorado.

Today, One Colorado will proudly stand on the steps of the Capitol alongside our coalition partners to launch Why Marriage Matters Colorado, the campaign that will move marriage forward here in Colorado.

Our position is simple: No loving couple in our state should be denied the protections and respect only marriage can provide. And we believe Coloradans are ready for a conversation about why marriage matters to all families.

If you’re ready to bring the freedom to marry to Colorado, add your name to our pledge now. Click here to say that you’re in.

In Colorado, our constitution bans marriage for loving gay and lesbian couples. We have two paths available to do away with this harmful amendment and extend marriage to all Colorado families: amending the constitution by a vote of the people, or winning in the courts. With your support, we’re committed to pursuing both paths simultaneously.

That’s why we’re launching this campaign today – to build the public support we need to make Colorado a state where all families are valued and protected.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll build grassroots power like Colorado has never seen before – and we’ll be laser-focused on telling the stories of loving same-sex couples who want to marry in the state we all call home.

You can help by pledging your support right now. Click here to add your name and say, “I support marriage for all Colorado families!”

With you and tens of thousands of One Colorado supporters fueling this campaign, the freedom to marry in Colorado isn’t a matter of if – it’s a matter of when.

Thanks for standing with us!

Launch-300x300

Today, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ ban on marriage for lesbian and gay couples is unconstitutional in the lawsuit brought by Cleopatra DeLeon, Nicole Dimetman, Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss who were represented by the law firm Akin Gump. The ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in the state. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“This injunction sends a powerful message that gay and lesbian Texans are being harmed everyday by inequality, and that these plaintiff couples who we’re proud to call members of the HRC family are very likely to succeed in striking down Texas’ ban on marriage equality. This is a historic day in the heart of the South, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to move quickly until loving couples in all 50 states feel the full reach of this victory for equality.”

The Texas ruling comes on the heels of a year-long string of electoral, judicial and legislative victories for marriage equality.  Recently the New Mexico Supreme Court and federal district judges in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio and Kentucky have ruled in favor of marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

texas-marriageequalitynews-blog450

Source: HRC Blog, “Historic Injunction for Marriage Equality in Texas,” February 26, 2014 by Paul Guequierre

 

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