TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Puts Hold on Virginia Same-Sex Marriages

Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriages
A guard stands on the steps of the Supreme Court Building, August 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Same-sex marriages could have begun as early as Thursday

The Supreme Court effectively barred same-sex couples from marrying in Virginia Wednesday after it delayed a lower court decision that would have lifted the state’s gay marriage ban. The appeals court ruling demanded that Virginia recognize out of state same-sex marriages and would have allowed same sex-couples to marry as early as Thursday morning.

Same-sex couples in Virginia must now wait until the Supreme Court decides to either decline to hear the appeal, under which the stay would be waived, or to reach a verdict of its own.

The Supreme Court did not provide an explanation for the order, which was requested by a Virginia court clerk, but it didn’t come as a surprise after it put same sex-unions on hold in Utah earlier this year.

The top plaintiff in the case, Tim Bostic, told USA Today that he preferred to hear a verdict from the Supreme Court.

“While we are disappointed that marriages will have to wait, this was not unexpected,” he said. “We feel that this case deserves to be heard by the Supreme Court and be finally decided for all Americans.”

Virginia voted in 2006 to ban gay marriage, but both of Virginia’s Democratic senators—Tim Kaine and Mark Warner—endorsed the practice last year.

 

MONEY Taxes

WATCH: One Year After DOMA Ruling, What’s Changed For Same-Sex Couples?

One year after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples are still fighting for marriage equality.

MONEY Social Security

Social Security Keeps Some Same-Sex Claims on Hold

If a gay couple lives in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, they may not be able to claim Social Security benefits.

The White House recently announced an expansion of federal benefits to same-sex couples, which had been promised by President Barack Obama. But the expansion does not fully include Social Security, which will require legislation to significantly broaden benefits. That leaves many gay couples seeking to make claims in legal limbo for now.

The timing of the Obama administration push occurred just before the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s partial overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). (The ruling was issued on June 26, 2013.) The court’s decision triggered a sweeping state-by-state legal assault on bans of same-sex marriages and civil unions. Today more than half the people in the nation live in states where such unions are recognized; legal challenges have been filed in every other state.

In the wake of these changes, most federal agencies now recognize same-sex marriages as valid if they took place in a state that recognized the union, even if the couple currently lives elsewhere. But as the Attorney General noted last week, a federal statute requires the Social Security Administration to “confer certain marriage-related benefits based on the law of the state in which the married couple resides or resided, preventing the extension of benefits to same-sex married couples living in states that do not allow or recognize same-sex marriages.” (The Veterans Administration is also hampered by this law.)

Given these legal restrictions, the approval of a same-sex Social Security claim depends largely on whether the applicant whose earnings record is the basis for the claim actually lives in a state that permits same-sex unions. If you happen to live in a state that does not, your application for benefits may be put on hold. There can be exceptions if the claimants lived in a state that recognized same-sex unions when they applied for benefits but later moved to a state that did not.

After the DOMA ruling, Social Security quickly encouraged same-sex couples to file for benefits if they felt they were entitled to them and developed new and expanded rules for these claims. But because of the state residence issue, the agency has placed an unknown number of those applications on hold. Social Security did not respond to repeated requests for details about approvals and holds for same-sex benefit applications.

Social Security apparently is approving benefit applications from couples married in one of roughly 20 states (plus D.C.) where same-sex unions are recognized and who meet the residence requirements. The agency also has recently begun to recognize civil-union spouses as qualifying for benefits. Under rules that apply to all couples, people must be married for nine months to qualify for widow or widower benefits and 12 months to qualify for spousal benefits. The Program Operations Manual System that instructs agency employees has been overhauled to include new guidance and examples of how to handle same-sex benefit applications.

A marriage must last for 10 years before divorce occurs in order for an ex-spouse to qualify for divorce benefits. Massachusetts was the first state to approve same-sex marriage, in 2004, so few same-sex couples currently qualify for divorce benefits.

To date, the biggest effect of the DOMA ruling has been to educate same-sex couples about potential claims, according to Stuart H. Armstrong II, a Massachusetts financial planner at Centinel Financial Group, who advises many LGBT clients. “Because this is such a sea change in the way of thinking, it is important for people to be aware of these benefits,” says Armstrong, also a national board member of the Financial Planning Association. “A lot of us are still pinching ourselves, realizing that this has happened so fast.”

Armstrong advises same-sex couples to review any recent Social Security claiming decisions made before they were married. Such decisions, made as individuals, might be less appealing financially than decisions available to a spouse who is married. Under Social Security rules, benefit decisions less than a year old can be withdrawn and claimants can get a “fresh slate” as regards their benefits. (They would have to repay any Social Security benefits already received, including Medicare Part B premiums for hospital insurance.)

“As access to marriage equality expands state by state, the denial of [Social Security] benefits based simply on ZIP code will increase the demand and urgency for a real solution for all families,” said Robin Maril, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington non-profit that has led efforts to broaden legal recognition for the LGBT community.

The group supports legislation that already has been introduced to change the Social Security law. But it’s hard to envision House conservatives voting to recognize same-sex marriage. Don’t expect the legal limbo over Social Security claims to clear up anytime soon.

Philip Moeller is an expert on retirement, aging and health. He is an award-winning business journalist and a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. Reach him at moeller.philip@gmail.com or @PhilMoeller on Twitter.

TIME Religion

What Affirming Same-Sex Marriage Means for the Presbyterian Church

On June 19, the denomination I love and have been privileged to serve as a pastor for eleven years became a more just, inclusive, and Christ-like place. Here's what that change does, and does not, mean

When the results flashed on the screen in the convention center—60% in favor of giving pastors the discretion to perform same-sex weddings in states where it’s legal—I didn’t cry.

When my Facebook feed lit up with celebratory posts and the Presbyterian Church (USA) logo rendered in rainbow colors, I smiled—but still I didn’t cry.

Later that day, I ran into a dear friend, a pastor from Chicago who’s been fighting for this change for years. I hugged him hard and called dibs on his wedding, whenever that blessed time should be. Again the tears didn’t come.

It was only at the end of the week, on the plane bound for home, when the full impact of the General Assembly’s decision hit me. The trigger? A song on the iPod: “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors. Yes, after the intensity of being one of 650 commissioners at our biennial meeting in Detroit and casting a historic vote, it was a bouncy pop anthem—a song with banjo, for heaven’s sake—that finally opened the floodgates.

Thursday, June 19 was not the best day of my life. But it certainly ranks in the top twenty, somewhere between getting my seminary acceptance letter and that perfect October day driving around California wine country with the top down. On that day, the Presbyterian Church (USA) became the second largest Christian denomination to affirm same-sex marriage, after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (The United Church of Christ has led the way on this for almost a decade, but they’re about half our size.)

With Thursday’s vote, the denomination I love and have been privileged to serve as a pastor for eleven years became a more just, inclusive, and Christ-like place. Now, members of our churches can be married by the same pastors who may have baptized and confirmed them, visited them in the hospital, and called on them to teach, to sing in the choir and to count the offering on Sunday morning.

It’s important to know what the change does and doesn’t mean. Last week’s ruling (called an Authoritative Interpretation) gives pastors and churches the latitude to perform same-sex weddings, but doesn’t require anyone to do so. This will be small comfort to some who are convinced the PC(USA) is abandoning its biblical roots and kowtowing to cultural norms. My top-twenty happy day was one of grief for a decent-sized chunk of the church, and it’s a heady thing to cast a vote that will cause pain to others. But we who celebrate this change have not abandoned the Bible. By affirming the right of committed gay couples to make life-long vows to one another, we are seeking to walk in the Way of Jesus, who stood with the outcast and proclaimed their full humanity.

The Assembly took a second action that day—we voted 71%-29% to amend our constitution’s paragraph describing marriage—an amendment that must be ratified by a majority of our regional bodies, called presbyteries, over the next year. In typical Presbyterian style, the language was a compromise: marriage is a civil contract between “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” This wording describes the world as it is for a growing number of states, but also nods to historical realities.

The PC(USA) has lost a number of churches in the last few years since clearing the way for LGBT persons to be ordained as pastors, elders and deacons. More will undoubtedly leave, not pacified by six words in a subordinate clause. But we hope the language will give some conservative-minded folks a place to stand. The Presbyterian Church is rarely the first one to the table on matters of justice, but when we do get there, we try to bring as many people as possible with us. Whether we’re successful this time remains to be seen.

There are congregations who’ve been clamoring for these changes. Mine isn’t one of them. I serve a small congregation with folks all over the political and theological spectrum. We’re located in Virginia, a state with one of the most restrictive constitutional amendments in the country. But it’s currently on appeal, and even opponents of marriage equality acknowledge its inevitability. When the time comes for my church to confront this issue personally, we will do so with vigorous conversation, mutual forbearance, and no small measure of humor. I’m proud to be part of a denomination that trusts us to make that decision faithfully for our context.

And when my friend in Chicago ties the knot, I’ll be ready to go, with my clergy robe, Book of Common Worship… and yes, my Bible too.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana is a pastor, speaker, and the author of Sabbath in the Suburbs and a forthcoming book, Spirituality for the Smartphone Age. Connect with her at her website, The Blue Room.

TIME LGBT

America’s Same-Sex Couples Are Going to Get More Federal Benefits

And that's going to be the case even if they live in states that do not recognize their unions

+ READ ARTICLE

Same-sex couples will be eligible for additional federal benefits, the Obama Administration will announce on Friday.

According to a White House official, several Cabinet agencies are announcing policy changes — consistent with last year’s Supreme Court striking of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — to extend additional protections to same-sex couples, regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes same-sex unions.

Among the announcements, the Department of Labor is proposing to make married same-sex couples eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Department of Justice will also announce the completion of a yearlong review of federal benefits and obligations, expanding those offered to same-sex couples in a number of states where they are currently barred.

BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner has a clear explainer of some of the benefits being made available.

The White House official added that President Barack Obama is still calling for legislation to roll back the parts of DOMA that were not struck down by the court, particularly to provide Social Security and other benefits to same-sex couples who live in states that don’t recognize their unions.

“The Administration is calling for legislation to fix those provisions that prohibit legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the federal benefits they are entitled to,” the official said.

TIME LGBT

Gay Marriage on Hold in Arkansas Following New Ruling

Beth Moore, Abby Hill, Jeremy Hernandez
Beth Moore, left, and her partner Abby Hill, center, exchange vows in a marriage ceremony performed by Jeremy Hernandez, right, at the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday May 16, 2014. Sarah Bentham—AP

A week after Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage, the state's Supreme Court has suspended his ruling and halted the distribution of marriage licenses. Before the court’s suspension, over 450 same-sex couples got married in the state

The Arkansas Supreme Court suspended a judge’s ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban Friday, stopping the distribution of marriage licenses to hundreds of gay couples.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down a 2004 amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman last week and expanded his ruling on Thursday to include all state laws banning gay marriage. The counties named in the lawsuit asked justices to stay Piazza’s ruling as they appeal.

The Supreme Court denied a request on Wednesday to stay his initial ruling, but effectively halted gay weddings when they pointed out a separate law that forbids clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was still on the books. Piazza’s Thursday ruling rejected the state’s request to put his decision on hold saying that gay couples would be harmed by such action. Counties resumed issuing licenses.

Over 450 same-sex couples had received marriage licenses since Piazza’s ruling, according to USA Today. Friday’s ruling put a halt to the licenses again, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, a resolution by Republicans to invalidate the licenses issued to same-sex couples failed before a legislative panel on Friday.

Gay marriage is currently legal in seventeen states.

[AP]

TIME The Brief

More Than a Game: Brazil Riots in World Cup Protests

Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now—from the editors of TIME

+ READ ARTICLE

Here are the stories TIME is watching this Friday, May 16:

  • Riots rock Brazil just weeks before the World Cup. The government is spending billions of dollars on the tournament, leaving protestors furious.
  • The FCC advanced new Internet rules that could allow content companies to buy a “fast lane” for their content.
  • Arkansas issues same-sex marriage licenses while Idaho puts them on hold.
  • Being pretty helps you get elected. A new study shows that participants could predict whether a female candidate would win or lose an election within a fraction of a second after seeing the candidate’s face.

The Brief is published daily on weekdays.

TIME Marriage

Arkansas Judge Strikes Down All Laws Banning Same Sex Marriage

Gay Marriage Arkansas
Brandon Armstrong, left, and Thomas Etheridge, right, both of Alexander, Ark. kiss and embrace after they were wed in the rotunda of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark. on May 12, 2014. Stephen B. Thornton—The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP

The Pulaski County Clerk tells TIME his office has already begun issuing licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of the judge's Thursday decision

The latest in an ongoing legal tug-of-war between the state and the state judiciary, an Arkansas judge ruled on Thursday that any state law banning same-sex marriage was void.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling came a day after the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the state’s request to stay Judge Piazza’s May 9 ruling allowing same-sex marriage, but cited a different state law on the books that prohibited clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Piazza’s response was to strike down all laws that prevent same-sex couples from getting married.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane told TIME that Thursday’s decision was broad enough to cover all legislation that could affect same-sex marriage. His office is already issuing licenses to same-sex couples, he said.

“We’ve already had one couple come in,” Crane told TIME. “We don’t have a line yet, but it’s been less than an hour.”

TIME Civil Rights

Idaho’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Gay Marriage Idaho
Amber Beierle, left, and Rachael Robertson, photographed on Nov. 8, 2013, are one of the four couples who challenged Idaho's ban on same-sex marriages Joe Jaszewski—AP

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale said the ban established in 2006 denies gay couples their fundamental rights, adding Idaho to the list of states where bans have recently been ruled unconstitutional: Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Utah

Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Tuesday.

In the decision, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale stated that the law stigmatized homosexual couples and denied gay and lesbian couples a fundamental right, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling was made in response to a challenge to the ban made by four same-sex couples in a lawsuit late last year.

The governor of Idaho, C.L. “Butch” Otter, said that he would appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

“In 2006, the people of Idaho exercised their fundamental right, reaffirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” he stated, according to AP.

“Today’s decision, while disappointing, is a small setback in a long-term battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court. I am firmly committed to upholding the will of the people and defending our Constitution.”

The ruling is the latest in a number of cases across the U.S., in which state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages have been ruled unconstitutional. Judges have recently struck down bans on same-sex marriages in Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Utah.

[AP]

TIME Civil Rights

Judge Strikes Down Arkansas Gay Marriage Ban

Arkansas Judge Gay marriage
Circuit Judge Chris Piazza Danny Johnston—AP

A federal judge in Arkansas said Friday that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex couples to marry. Federal judges in five other states have struck down gay marriage bans since late last year

A judge in Arkansas said Friday that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex couples to marry.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the ban, which voters overwhelmingly supported in 2004, the Associated Press reports.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel last week became the first elected official in the state to support marriage equality, but he said he would continue to defend the ban. His office is expected to appeal Friday’s ruling.

Judges in federal courts in five other states have struck down gay marriage bans since late last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing gay marriage.

In Arkansas, the defense argued that an amendment to the state constitution cannot be deemed unconstitutional, while the plaintiffs said even the state constitution cannot supersede their rights to due process and equal protection. A separate case has challenged the state’s law in federal court.

[AP]

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