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Court dismisses La. marriage equality lawsuit

Plaintiffs say they’ll amend complaint to continue litigation

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A Louisiana court has dismissed a marriage equality lawsuit (photo via wikimedia).

A Louisiana court has dismissed a marriage equality lawsuit (photo via wikimedia).

A federal court in Louisiana has dismissed a lawsuit seeking marriage equality on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction, although attorneys say they’ll amend the complaint to continue the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, a Reagan appointee, dismissed the lawsuit, known as Robicheaux v. Caldwell, on Wednesday because plaintiffs named only Attorney General James Caldwell as a defendant and he hasn’t denied them the recognition of their marriage.

“The Attorney General’s sweeping responsibility to enforce the laws of the State of Louisiana lacks the Ex parte Young specificity nexus between the Attorney General and the alleged unconstitutional provisions that is essential to defeat sovereign immunity,” Feldman writes.

Scott Spivey, an attorney in New Orleans, filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Jon Robicheaux and Derek Pinton, who married in Iowa last year and are seeking the recognition of their marriage in their home state of Louisiana. Another Louisiana same-sex couple who married in Iowa, Nadine and Courtney Blanchard, later joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

James Hartman, a spokesperson for the plaintiffs, say they don’t believe the decision is “a fatal blow to the case” and plan to amend the complaint.

“On Monday, pending no objection from the attorney general, Mr. Spivey will seek to amend the suit, naming Secretary Tim Barfield of the State Department of Revenue as the defendant,” Hartman said. “Failing acceptance of that amendment or denial of that motion, Mr. Spivey will file an appeal with the Fifth Circuit.”

An individual is unable to sue a state under the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because of sovereign immunity — unless the plaintiff is suing a state actor who’s acting in an unconstitutional way.

Feldman denies the attorney general is the appropriate state actor in the lawsuit, dismissing arguments that Caldwell is essentially responsible for enforcing the laws in Louisiana and sovereign immunity cannot apply in the case because plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief and not monetary damages.

The judge also takes note the attorney general has requested the lawsuit be dismissed or transferred for improper venue, but says this request is moot because the judge has dismissed the lawsuit for other reasons.

Suzanne Goldberg, a lesbian and co-director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, said the plaintiffs would be in a stronger position in the case if they sought recognition and then alleged in their amended complaint that the recognition was denied.

“If the couples had asked for recognition and been denied, the court would not have dismissed the suit on the same grounds,” Goldberg said.

The Robicheaux case isn’t the only marriage-related lawsuit in Louisiana. Private lawyers have filed another lawsuit in state court, known as In Re Costanza and Brewer, on behalf of another same-sex couple seeking to have their marriage recognized by Louisiana. Judge Edward Broussard ruled against the couple in July. The case is now being appealed.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article indicated that James Hartman was a spokesperson for attorney Scott Spivey. The Blade regrets the error.

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Trudeau’s party wins Canada election

Prime minister champions LGBTQ rights

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recreational marijuana, gay news, Washington Blade
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the U.N. in 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the country’s election that took place on Monday.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation projected Trudeau’s party won, even though polls have not closed in all provinces and territories. Erin O’Toole of the Conservative Party was Trudeau’s main challenger.

Trudeau has been prime minister since 2015.

He won re-election in 2019, even though a picture of him in blackface emerged a few weeks before the vote. His party lost its majority in Parliament.

Trudeau last month called a snap election in the hopes his party could once again have a majority government.

The prime minister in 2017 formally apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under Canada’s anti-LGBTQ laws and policies and announced the Canadian government would settle a class-action lawsuit filed by those who were forced to leave the military and civil service because of their sexual orientation.

A law that added gender identity to Canada’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes also law took effect in 2017. Trudeau supports a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Canada in 2018 joined the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the U.S. launched in order to promote LGBTQ rights around the world. Canada has also said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans who are fleeing their country after the Taliban regained control of it in August.

The Washington Blade will update this article.

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McAuliffe participates in Virginia Pride roundtable

Gubernatorial candidate highlighted plans to keep Va. ‘open and welcoming’

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Monday met with Virginia Pride in Richmond to discuss his plans to keep the state “open and welcoming” for the LGBTQ community.

“Great opportunity to speak with @VA_Pride in Richmond this AM,” McAuliffe tweeted following the roundtable that took place at Diversity Richmond’s headquarters. “VA is the #1 state for business because we are open and welcoming — but that’s all at risk this November. Glenn Youngkin’s far-right social agenda would harm LGBTQ+ Virginians and send our economy into a ditch.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin are running a close race for the governorship, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Saturday that shows the former Virginia governor leading by a 50-47 percent margin among likely voters.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, for his record of supporting LGBTQ rights, including supporting marriage equality and signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees as his first action in office. 

“LGBTQ leaders in Richmond had a great meeting with Gov. McAuliffe where he was able to lay out his agenda for building on the tremendous progress Virginia has made towards equality,” said Virginia Pride Program Director James Millner in an email to the Washington Blade. “The governor talked extensively about his record on LGBTQ issues and promised to work with us to ensure that every LGBTQ Virginian is able to live openly and authentically.”

McAuliffe’s legacy includes welcoming businesses turned off by North Carolina’s passage of its anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” 

When North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law requiring students to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificates, took effect in 2016, McAullife recruited CoStar, a real estate information company that operates databases for Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com and similar companies, to move its headquarters to Richmond. This recruitment brought 730 jobs to the state.

David Dorsch, a senior vice president at Cushman and Wakefield, which represented CoStar nationally, told the Charlotte Business Journal that CoStar’s primary reason for choosing “Richmond over Charlotte was HB 2.”

Youngkin is a former business executive who previously ran the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm named by the HRC in 2019 as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. HRC, however, has called out Youngkin for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his current campaign.

McAuliffe in April released an LGBTQ rights platform that includes a call to repeal the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Governor Ralph Northam, who was McAuliffe’s former lieutenant governor and has signed historic LGBTQ-inclusive legislation during his time in office, also endorsed McAuliffe for governor.

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Biden recognizes 10th anniversary of end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Pete Buttigieg, Gina Ortiz Jones named in White House statement

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President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.

As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.

On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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