Politics

The Marriage Equality Map You Need To Know

A lot is happening as courts across the nation rule on same-sex couples’ marriage rights. Updated: Here’s where things stood as of July 29. [Update: For the latest version of the expanding marriage equality map, click here.]

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Advocates expect the Supreme Court to decide a case addressing same-sex couples’ marriage rights in the next few years. But to get there, cases have to be heard by lower courts first.


With a rush of court filings since the Supreme Court ruled this past June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages, lawyers and organizations have been racing and fighting to get a marriage case back to the high court. Trial court decisions started coming down on Dec. 20, 2013, and they haven’t stopped since.

Here’s where things stand as of July 29 with cases that have reached at least a trial court decision and could eventually reach the Supreme Court.


BuzzFeed will be updating this post as developments happen.

Note: Temporary restraining orders, though detailed below, are not included in the map above because such orders are not generally appealable and, thus, are unlikely to reach the Supreme Court.

3rd Circuit Court:


Pennsylvania: On May 20, a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s statutory ban on same-sex couples’ marriage is unconstitutional. The judge did not issue a stay of his ruling, meaning the ban is struck down and same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licenses. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who had been defending the ban, announced the next day that he will not be appealing the ruling. Schuylkill County Orphans Court Clerk Theresa Santai-Gaffney had tried to get a stay in order to stop marriages but was unsuccessful, up to and including from the Supreme Court. The merits of the appeal Santai-Gaffney is attempting to bring remains pending before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

4th Circuit Court:


Circuit Ruling: On July 28, the 4th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the trial court’s decision that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Virginia: In February, a U.S. District Court struck down Virginia’s amendment that banned same-sex couples from marrying in the state. That ruling was challenged and now the 4th Circuit court will hear the case. The opening briefs in the appeal are due March 28. Responses are due April 11, with the reply due April 30. Oral arguments: May 13.

5th Circuit Court:


Texas: In February, a Texas court ruled the state’s ban on marriages for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General and candidate for governor Greg Abbott have appealed the ruling. No schedule has been set for the appeal.

6th Circuit Court:


Kentucky: A U.S. District Court judge has ordered Kentucky officials to recognize marriages between same-sex couples that were performed out of state. Putting that ruling on hold until March 20, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced he will be appealing the ruling in the wake of the decision by the state’s attorney general, Jack Conway, not to seek an appeal in the case. The recognition ruling was appealed by Beshear on Tuesday, March 18. On July 1, the same judge ruled in a companion case that the state’s marriage amendment itself, and not just the recognition provision, is unconstitutional as well. Oral argument: Set for Aug. 6.

Michigan: A federal judge struck down Michigan’s marriage amendment as unconstitutional on March 21. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette notified the trial court that the state is appealing the case to the 6th Circuit and asked the 6th Circuit for a stay putting the trial court’s judgment on hold until the appeal can be heard. After a day of same-sex weddings in four counties on March 22, the 6th Circuit put weddings on hold during the appeal. On April 4, Schuette asked for the entire 6th Circuit to hear the appeal en banc, rather than the appeal first going to a three-judge panel of the court, but the 6th Circuit denied that request. Oral argument: Set for Aug. 6.

Ohio: In December, a federal judge ruled that Ohio officials must recognize the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples in the case of couples being listed as married on death certificates. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed the ruling in January. The state’s opening brief is due April 10, with a response due May 13 and any reply due 17 days after the response is filed. In a second case, heard by the same federal judge, he announced on April 4 in a court hearing that he would be issuing a ruling striking down the recognition portion of Ohio’s marriage ban for all purposes — not just for purposes of the death certificate. The judge issued that ruling on April 14. Oral argument: Set for Aug. 6.

Tennessee: On March 14, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in a case asking the court to order the state to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples who married out of state. The judge put the order in place while the court considers whether to issue a permanent injunction against enforcement of the state’s ban on recognizing such marriages, but state officials announced on Tuesday, March 18, that they were appealing the preliminary injunction. Oral argument: Set for Aug. 6.

7th Circuit Court:


Illinois: Although a U.S. District Court judge ruled that same-sex couples could marry immediately in Cook County, Ill. (the county Chicago is in), no state or county officials are appealing the ruling. That means same-sex couples can marry now in Cook County — and are marrying in several other counties following advice from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — ahead of the June 1 effective date of the marriage equality law in the state. There is no appeal.

Indiana: A U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order on April 10 forcing the state to recognize the out-of-state marriage of one same-sex couple who married in Massachusetts. The emergency order was granted, in part, because one of the two women has a terminal illness. The judge issued a preliminary injunction, which the state is appealing, on April 8. On June 25, a U.S. District Court judge struck down the statutory ban on same-sex couples’ marriages. Because no stay was granted, same-sex couples began marrying in some counties immediately. On June 27, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, stopping new marriages. Oral arguments: Set for Aug. 26.

Wisconsin: A U.S. District Court judge found the state’s marriage ban to be unconstitutional on June 6. Although Judge Barbara Crabb initially put off issuing an injunction in the case until at least June 16, officials in Dane and Milwaukee counties began issuing marriage licenses immediately. On June 9, Crabb denied a temporary stay because she still was yet to issue an injunction. Finally, after a week of confusion, Crabb issued a stay on June 13. Oral arguments: Set for Aug. 26.

9th Circuit Court:


Nevada: Last year, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on the federal government recognizing same-sex couples’ marriage rights. Before that happened, though, a federal judge upheld Nevada’s state ban on same-sex couples marrying. The couples who had sued the state appealed the ruling. After the 9th Circuit decided that it would examine laws that distinguished based on sexual orientation more skeptically, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced they were stopping their defense of the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. Oral arguments: Set for September 8.

Idaho: On May 13, a federal judge ruled that Idaho’s ban on same-sex couples marriages is unconstitutional. The next day, he denied Gov. Butch Otter’s request that the order be stayed pending appeal — although the 9th Circuit later issued a temporary stay before the trial court order was to go into effect on May 16. On May 20, it issued a stay on the trial court ruling pending the appeal, which will be briefed over the summer. Oral arguments: Scheduled for September 8.

Oregon: On May 19, a federal judge ruled that Oregon’s 2004 marriage amendment unconstitutionally violated the guarantees of equal protection. Because no state officials planned to appeal any decision striking down the ban — although they enforced it prior to the May 19 court ruling — there was no reason for the judge, as has happened in other cases, to issue a stay. As such, the ruling went into effect immediately, and same-sex couples began marrying on May 19. (The National Organization for Marriage, which unsuccessfully sought at the trial court to intervene in the case to defend the ban, has appealed the intervention denial. It also sought to stay the trial court proceedings pending the appeal of the intervention denial, but the 9th Circuit denied that request on May 19 prior to the issuance of the trial court ruling. NOM asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay, but the court denied the request.) NOM’s appeal of the denial of intervention remains pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

10th Circuit Court:


Circuit Ruling: On June 25, the 10th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the trial court’s decision that Utah’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. Utah officials have said they will be filing a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court.

On July 18, the 10th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the trial court’s decision that Oklahoma’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. It also affirmed the trial court’s decision that a couple suing for recognition of their marriage granted out of state lacked standing to do so by suing the county clerk.

Oklahoma: In January, a U.S. District Court judge found Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages to be unconstitutional. The county clerk appealed, as did the same-sex couple who challenged Oklahoma’s refusal to recognize their marriage granted in California but had their case rejected on technical grounds of standing. Oral arguments: April 17.

Utah: In December, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled Utah’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages unconstitutional and refused to issue a stay — basically, he refused to put his ruling on hold, thus requiring officials to marry same-sex couples. For a couple weeks, until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in January, more than 1,000 same-sex couples married across the state. State officials appealed the ruling. Oral arguments held: April 10.

Colorado: The day of the 10th Circuit ruling in Utah’s marriage case, the Boulder County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Then, when other clerks, including Denver’s clerk, began issuing marriage licenses, the Colorado Supreme Court eventually issued a stay as to Adams and Denver counties, and Pueblo County stopped soon thereafter. Boulder was ordered to stop issuing licenses by the Colorado Supreme Court on July 29. In addition to a state case, a federal judge also struck down Colorado’s ban, but issued a temporary stay in the case through Aug. 25.

State Courts:


Arkansas: On May 9, a state court judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages — a ruling that the state will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Any appeal from the Arkansas Supreme Court would be made directly to the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of a petition for certiorari.

Colorado: A state court judge ruled that the state’s amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional. Eventually, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a stay barring Adams and Denver counties from issuing marriage licenses during the appeal of the case.

Florida: Two trial court judges have ruled that Florida’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages are unconstitutional — first in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, and then in Miami.

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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