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Updates: Texas Gay Marriage, Voter ID Appeals

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 14, 2014 2:18 PM

What are the two hottest issues in Texas? The Cowboys and the Cowboys. But for those of you who aren't sports fans, the other answer is gay marriage and the state's embattled voter ID legislation. Both are headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Let's take a look at the latest developments in these two burning civil rights issues:

Gay Marriage: Paired With La., Paperwork Submitted

For a while there, it looked like a good possibility that the Fifth Circuit would never hear same-sex marriage appeals out of Louisiana and Texas. But the Supreme Court, likely because of the lack of a circuit split, punted on consolidated appeals from other circuits, leaving the issue technically still open for interpretation.

It also leaves the Fifth Circuit's case on track for arguments later this year. Late last month, the court paired the Texas and Louisiana appeals on the docket after granting an expedited briefing schedule for the Louisiana case, reports Equality on Trial. The final paperwork for the Louisiana parties is due by November 7, while the final paperwork in the Texas case was just submitted yesterday.

Once the paperwork is in, the two cases will be argued before the same panel. Interestingly, this presents the only time, so far, when an appeals court will review conflicting same-sex marriage decisions out of the district court, as the district court in the Louisiana case was the only such court to uphold a state ban on gay marriage since Windsor.

Voter ID Case: Arguments Pile Up

Just last week, we reported on the district court decision out of Texas where a judge found that state's law to be both an unconstitutional burden on voting and race-motivated and enjoined its enforcement.

Since then, SCOTUSblog has been collecting and tracking parties' submissions to the Fifth Circuit for and against allowing enforcement of the law. Texas, which likely has the winning argument if the Supreme Court's recent ruling in three other states are any indication, is asking that the state be allowed to proceed as planned for the coming election, as early voting starts next week. That's basically the Supreme Court's holding in Purcell: no last-minute changes to voting laws.

The Obama administration and others argue that the Fifth Circuit shouldn't allow the state to enforce a law that was, according to the district court, a product of intentional race bias.

There's also an interesting question about whether the district court went too far by requiring Texas to run any remedial changes to the voting law by her first -- a requirement the state argues is an improper "preclearance" requirement.

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