CourtSide: Civil Rights Archives
CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Category

Arizona gays and lesbians can get married now pursuant to a letter by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

The letter, issued early Friday, instructs the Grand Canyon State's 15 county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately, following a recent decision by a federal district court that demanded Arizona stop enforcing its gay marriage ban. The Arizona Republic reports that Horne issued a statement Friday declaring that an appeal on the issue would be "an exercise in futility" and a waste of taxpayer money.

So what is the legal effect of A.G. Tom Horne's letter for gay marriage in Arizona?

Idaho and Nevada's gay marriage bans were struck down as unconstitutional on Tuesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of the federal appellate court found that both states' laws were in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. In their majority opinion, the judges also found that each state had failed to meet the level of scrutiny applied to laws which discriminate against gays and lesbians.

What does this ruling mean for states in the 9th Circuit?

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday that will prevent police in Ferguson, Missouri, from enforcing a "keep moving" rule on protesters.

This unofficial rule, also known as the "five second rule," has been used to keep protesters in Ferguson from standing still for too long. Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, believes that this practice has been applied "haphazardly" and tended to increase tension among protesters, reports MSNBC. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry found these rules to be unconstitutional, as they infringed on protesters' constitutional rights.

What was Judge Perry's reasoning behind finding the "keep moving" rule unconstitutional?

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear five gay marriage appeals, along with hundreds of other cases.

In an 81-page Order List issued Monday, the High Court detailed a slew of cases that it would hear in its 2014 Term (which began today), but gay marriage cases from five states were not among them.

Because same-sex marriage appeals from Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Virginia were rejected, the rulings striking down those states' gay marriage bans are now in effect. So what happens next?

A Louisiana state court ruled Monday that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. That opinion was originally sealed because the case involved the adoption of a minor child, but the ruling was released to the public Tuesday.

Judge Edward Rubin, writing for the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette Parish, ruled that a lesbian couple who had been legally married in California should be considered legally married in Louisiana. The decision was based on the law's violations of the guarantees of equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment, as well as conflicts with the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

This ruling could mean big changes in the gay marriage landscape for Louisiana residents.

An Arizona man may receive his dead husband's benefits after a federal court ruled that his spouse's death certificate could be changed to reflect their same-sex married status.

Fred McQuire, 69, lost his partner George Martinez after 45 years, after the two got married in California this summer, reports The Arizona Republic. Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage prevented McQuire from getting his deceased husband's Social Security and veteran's benefits, but on Friday a federal judge ruled in McQuire's favor.

A federal appeals court has upheld lower court decisions that struck down gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals roundly rejected arguments that same-sex marriage bans were somehow beneficial to children and ruled that neither state had provided a rational basis for their laws, thus making them unconstitutional.

In a decision issued Wednesday, a federal judge upheld Louisiana's ban on gay marriage.

This ruling in Robicheaux v. Caldwell was based on U.S. District Court Judge Martin L. C. Feldman's evaluation that Louisiana's law was supported by rational basis. The decision is the first in more than a year to disrupt a long chain of federal courts which have ruled against state gay marriage bans. According to The Associated Press, more than 20 courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision invalidating a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

So why was this case different?

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in federal court Thursday as being a violation of constitutional rights, though the decision won't take effect immediately.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that Florida's prohibition on same-sex nuptials infringes on the "fundamental right" to marriage under the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.

Hinkle stayed his own ruling, pending the outcome of gay marriage decisions in several other states, including Virginia, where the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay on a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing gay marriage while it determines whether or not it wants to hear the case.

Six federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins were cancelled by an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The board ruled the term "Redskins" is disparaging to a "substantial composite" of Native Americans.

The immediate legal impact of the ruling, which can be appealed to federal court, could be limited, however. The Washington Redskins football team is not required to stop using the name.

But Wednesday's 2-1 board ruling (attached below) could give critics of the term another shot to urge Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder to change it.

"[W]e decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," said the 2-1 ruling by a panel of three administrative trademark judges at the patent agency, also known as the PTO.

If the trademark ruling survives any potential appeals, the Redskins would lose certain rights and find it harder to crack down on unauthorized sales of merchandise with the team's name and logo.

"This probably isn't going to affect the team's ability to run the business or enforce its rights," Marc Reiner, an intellectual-property lawyer at Moss & Kalish PLLC, in New York, told The Wall Street Journal. "This is just a government body saying that it's inappropriate to have this as a registered trademark."