As LGBT Pride Month 2014 draws to a close, the focus is on the status of current legal issues involving the LGBT community:
- Marriage Equality – The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) provides detailed information on marriage and relationship recognition laws by state. In addition, Lambda Legal provides an overview of the states currently permitting same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, as well as summaries of the pending court cases in the remaining states. “All states that do not currently allow same-sex couples to marry currently have pending lawsuits challenging that ban, or the refusal of the state to recognize marriages same-sex couples entered outside the jurisdiction, or both.” (06/23/2014, http://www.lambdalegal.org/pending-marriage-equality-cases). “[T]here currently are 84 pending lawsuits (57 in federal court – 16 of which are on appeal; and 27 in state courts – 9 of which are on appeal and 22 of which raise federal claims), involving how the marriage laws of 33 states and Puerto Rico apply to same-sex couples.” (Id.). The relevant Oklahoma case is Bishop v. Smith, which is currently before the 10th Circuit; oral argument was held on 4/17/14, and a decision is pending. (http:/www.freedomtomarry.org/litigation/entry/oklahoma). Yesterday, the 10th Circuit upheld the district court ruling striking down Utah’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. (https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/13/13-4178.pdf).
- Federal Implementation of Windsor – One year ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in United States v. Windsor, holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. Section 3 “had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex married couples as married for federal purposes” (Memo from Attorney General Eric Holder to President Obama, 6/20/2014, at http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/9722014620103930904785.pdf). Since the Windsor ruling, the administration has opened up many federal benefits to same-sex married couples, including the following: filing joint federal tax returns; military service benefits; immigration sponsorship; federal employee spousal benefits; spousal coverage for health insurance; and many others. (Id.) In addition, there are current proposals to “permit same-sex couples to access leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regardless of state of residence” and “to extend family leave to all federal employees who are married to a same-sex spouse.” (HRC Blog, Under Obama, Windsor Implementation Constitutes the Largest Conferral of LGBT Rights in History, 6/20/2014, at http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/under-obama-windsor-implementation-constitutes-the-largest-conferral-of-lgb).
- Employment Discrimination – While President Obama “continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/civil-rights) that the Senate passed last year, the White House announced on June 16, 2014 that he “plans to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-sign-executive-order-lgbt-workplace-protections). For the status of state and local laws, see MAP’s Non-Discrimination Laws (Employment) and Local Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinances.
- Hate Crimes/Anti-bullying – In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was codified at 18 U.S.C. § 249. (http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/matthewshepard.php). This act “provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes” and it created “a new federal criminal law which criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury (or attempting to do so with fire, firearm, or other dangerous weapon) when: (1) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person or (2) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.” (http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/matthewshepard.php). Overviews of state laws related to hate crimes and anti-bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity can be found on MAP’s website.