The legal overturning of bans against same-sex marriage is penetrating even the deep South as a Circuit Court judge in Arkansas, in a brief but moving opinion yesterday ruled that the state’s ban passed in 2004 is unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions.
The judge, like many judges before him, invoked the Windsor ruling and said that legal restrictions based on animus toward a certain class of persons could not withstand the heightened scrutiny the law demanded. What is somewhat significant is that this ruling came from a state judge and not a federal judge. As a result of his ruling, and that he did not issue a stay pending appeal, several couples got married today. These marriages were the first in the South.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered the state of Indiana, which does not allow same-sex marriage, to recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple who were legally married elsewhere. These kinds of cases are increasingly common but in this case, one of the women Niki Quasney is terminally ill with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and the judge ordered the state to list her spouse Amy Sandler as the next of kin in the event of Quasney’s death.
The state has asked the judge to stay his order until the Appeals Court hears the case but judges issue stays only if there is no likelihood of irreversible harm that can occur in the interim and the appealing side has a reasonable chance of winning its case. In this case, I hope he does not issue a stay because if he does and Quasney dies, then Sandler will be denied the benefits that she and their two children would receive by virtue of being her spouse. His ruling only applied to this particular case anyway and was not a general rule so the state could have let it slide out of compassion. But no.
Lambda Legal, the national gay rights group representing the couple, denounced the state’s decision to appeal.
“This is a shameful display of cruelty towards a loving couple with two children whose marriage is vital as they battle an aggressive cancer and fight to be together,” Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
The Daily Show describes, among other cases, another similar case involving a military veteran that illustrates the needless cruelty involved in denying death benefits to same-sex couples.
(This clip aired on May 6, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)