March 13, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Marriage lawsuits filed in three more states

Sandra Newson, Denise Hueso, Miami, Florida, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

Sandra Newson and Denise Hueso of Miami are among the eight same-sex couples who are seeking legal recognition of their out-of-state marriages in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU of Florida)

Same-sex couples in three additional states this week have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights.

Lambda Legal on Thursday filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona on behalf of seven same-sex couples and two surviving spouses who are challenging the Grand Canyon State’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The same group on March 10 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of three gay couples seeking the ability to tie the knot in the Hoosier State.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida on Thursday also filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of eight same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. SAVE, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, is a plaintiff in the case.

Sandra Newsom of Miami, who married her partner of nearly 17 years, Denise Hueso, in Massachusetts in 2009, is among those who spoke at a Miami Beach press conference.

“When we moved back to Florida we knew we would be sacrificing some of the rights that we’d enjoyed when we lived in Massachusetts,” said Newsom. “Most families don’t have to choose between being in the place they call home and having equal treatment under the law, and they shouldn’t have to. If Florida would recognize our marriage, we wouldn’t have to either.”

Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey of Scottsdale, Ariz., who have been together for more than 55 years, are the lead plaintiffs in the Arizona case.

“We’re a committed, loving family, have raised two amazing girls together, have seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health,” said Majors. “After five decades together, we want to celebrate and affirm our deep love for each other as other couples do, before our friends and family, through marriage.”

18 states and D.C. have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver next month is scheduled to hold oral arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of state constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and Utah. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is slated to hear a case that challenges Virginia’s gay nuptials ban.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the coming months is expected to hear oral arguments in a challenge to Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal appeals court in New Orleans will likely hear a similar case that challenges Texas’ gay nuptials prohibition after U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia last month ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clauses.

A federal judge on Feb. 27 ordered Kentucky to begin recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last month filed a lawsuit against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on behalf of a gay widower who lost his spouse less than three months after they exchanged vows in Massachusetts in 2011. Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Missouri, Oregon and other states have also filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights after the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police offices and other public safety personnel – even in states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. Holder a few weeks later said state attorneys general do not have to defend same-sex marriage bans.

“I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation,” he said during a Feb. 26 speech during the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in D.C. “We must endeavor – in all of our efforts – to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last month introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where gays and lesbians cannot tie the knot.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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