Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
California: 365gay.com reported that Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have asked a federal judge on Jan. 27 not to issue a ruling in a challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act until California courts have dealt with the issue of equal marriage rights. A suburban Orange County gay couple are suing the federal government in a bid to have DOMA struck down, but Lambda NCLR filed friend of the court briefs arguing that the cases already before California courts should take precedence. The suit is the last remaining challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage law.
Florida: Three gay couples dropped their lawsuits challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act Jan. 25, saying they do not want to risk having a conservative U.S. Supreme Court set precedent by rejecting their case.
The lawsuits were brought by gay couples wedded in Massachusetts and Canada and wanted Florida to recognize their marriages. Their attorney said key to their decision was the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear a challenge to a Florida law that bars gays from adopting children. Two of the lawsuits were dismissed by a federal judge in Tampa last week. The third, filed in Miami, had not been heard. The plaintiffs could have taken their cases from there to the federal appeals court in Atlanta, and then the Supreme Court.
Idaho: A proposed constitutional amendment that would ban equal marriage rights cleared a Senate committee Jan. 28. The amendment would invalidate any type of marriage or civil union except those between one man and one woman. The amendment would need a two-thirds majority to pass the 35-member body.
Indiana: Legislation that could lead to a state constitutional ban on equal marriage rights will get a chance to advance in the General Assembly. A Republican Senator says the panel he chairs will consider the proposal soon. Democrats who controlled the House last year denied GOP attempts to advance or even debate the proposal, but Republicans won control of the chamber in November.
Iowa: Republicans in the state senate have introduced a constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights Jan. 26. The amendment is similar to the failed bill that lawmakers debated last year. The amendment reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in the state of Iowa.” It would require a statewide vote.
Kansas: A state house committee Jan. 27 endorsed a proposed constitutional ban on equal marriage rights. The measure also prohibits civil unions for gay couples and declares that the state recognizes only traditionally married couples as entitled to the “rights and incidents” of marriage.
Massachusetts Gay newlyweds in Massachusetts this year are pondering a whether to check “married” or “single” on federal tax forms since their marriages are recognized by state law but not by the federal government. Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders is advising the state’s estimated 4,900 same-sex couples who married in the past year to file federal returns as if they are single but to note – either through an attached letter or on the return itself – that they were married in Massachusetts. Same-sex couples who are residents of Massachusetts can file joint state returns. An IRS agency spokesman said if the couples are caught filing as married, “the status would be changed and they would be notified of that.” The IRS would bill the filer for any overdue amount, plus interest, and possibly levy a fine.