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Marriage Equality Lawsuit Update

roses red logo forumThis is a brief update on the status of our lawsuit.

As you have probably heard, Judge Feldman heard oral arguments yesterday in the marriage equality lawsuit we filed along with six other plaintiff couples, seeking to force Louisiana to recognize otherwise valid, out-of-state same-sex marriages. A seventh couple sued to force Louisiana to issue marriage licenses, but the court announced several months ago that it wanted to resolve the marriage recognition issue before getting into the marriage creation issue.

The arguments yesterday were excellent, and Judge Feldman asked pointed, carefully considered questions to both sides. We could not be happier with the level of preparation both of our legal team and of the court – it is always best to have a well-prepared judge, particularly when one is confident, as we are, of one’s legal correctness.

At the end of the arguments, as expected, the court announced that it would not issue a ruling immediately (it is very rare for a federal judge to “rule from the bench”). However, the Judge also announced that he wants to resolve all issues all at once, rather than issue multiple rulings. As such, he has requested that the parties submit some additional written arguments by July 16, 2014 addressing whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as well as the First Amendment claim. You may recall that in our lawsuit, we argued that Louisiana, by forcing same-sex married couples to check “single” on state tax returns, is compelling couples to effectively lie and this violates their rights to free speech.

At this point, it is not clear whether there will be additional oral arguments in court, nor do we have a firm timeline for when a final decision will be rendered, though we would expect a ruling by the end of the summer or the beginning of fall.

We wanted to give you this update on our legal efforts to keep you all apprised of what your support has gotten you. We always strive to get you information as soon as we can, but our primary concern was in getting the right information out, as opposed to the early story. Rest assured that if you hear something from the media first, the reason for that is because our media team’s focus first and foremost is getting you the full, accurate picture.

We have always said this would be a long journey, and we stand by that; even after the court rules, there will doubtless be appeals, and as we saw yesterday with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals tossing out Utah’s same-sex marriage ban (along with an Indiana district court), there are new legal developments almost every day. But thanks to your support, we will continue this fight however long it takes, and we will not stop until there is equality for all.

Yours in Equality,

Chris Otten
Forum for Equality Louisiana Chair-Elect and Legal Committee Chairman

Please consider investing in equality by joining Forum for Equality today! Follow this link to our secure donation page.

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An historical day on the road to marriage equality

Today, our long-awaited day in court came to pass. We cannot discuss today without thanking everyone involved in this process: our legal committee who worked tirelessly to refine our arguments; our plaintiffs who put themselves out in the public eye in the name of their personal dignity as well as the greater good; and our law firm, Stone Pigman Walther Wittman, who graciously offered to hold our hands on this journey.

Special thanks must be made to Dalton Courson, our lead counsel, who worked along side with Lesli Harris, John Landis, Brooke Tigchelaar and Maurine Wall, as well as countless others who assisted us on this road. With all of that being said, we are so happy and grateful we were able to have such a great argument.

Judge Feldman asked great questions of both sides, and we are as confident as ever in our legal position and the ultimate resolution of these issues in our favor. The journey isn’t over; it’s just begun. But we could not have gotten this far without everyone’s support. Thanking you for all you do.

We would love to celebrate with you this evening at The Rusty Nail located at 1100 Constance Street, New Orleans, Louisiana from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

With Equality,

SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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Forum for Equality Annual Membership Meeting

2014 Annual Membership Meeting

ELECTION OF BOARD MEMBERS

The Forum Governance Committee submits the following names for election to a two year term for the Board of Directors of FFE Louisiana. Additionally, you may nominate any other Forum member to serve on the board, including yourself. All nominations must be received by Friday, June 11 at 5pm. Contact SarahJane Brady with any questions and nominations at 504.569.9156 or sarahjane.brady@forumforequality.com.

NEW
Kelly Bryson
Hannah Gregory
Julie Thibodeaux
RETURNING
Marie Bolhmann
Mary Griggs (Chair)
Jimmy Farenholtz
John Hill
Kenny Tucker
Those listed above and anyone nominated will be voted on by the General Membership at the Annual Meeting on June 24.

Annual Membership is $40. Meeting open to all members with dues current as of June 24, 2014. Memberships must be paid prior to June 16th in order to vote in board elections. Contact SarahJane Brady with questions.

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Who Deserves Acclaim?

It’s that time again… We are gearing up for the Acclaim Awards 25th Anniversary Gala! The Acclaim Awards is Forum for Equality’s opportunity to celebrate the work being done across Louisiana to make this state a more fair and equitable community. So, save the date for September 26, 2014!
There are a few ways to get involved this year:

1.) Nominate! Do you know someone that has contributed to the LGBT community here in Louisiana in one of these areas? Previous years we have celebrated and awarded in the categories below, so start sending in your nominations to sarahjane@forumforequality.org.

Arts & Entertainment
Previous Winners include: Sonny Borey, Ricky Graham, Becky Allen, Krewe of Petronius, Patrick Lee

Media
Previous Winner include: Angela Hill, Chris Rose, Nell Nolan, Ambush Magazine, Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Health
Previous Winners include: Ginger Bouvier, Dr. Troy Scroggins, Heidi Nagele Chapman, Dr. Mike Kaiser, NO/AIDS Taskforce, Acadiana C.A.R.E.S.

Political Activism
Previous Winners include: Larry Best, Larry Bagneris, Kelly Bryson, Deon Haywood, Adrienne Critcher

Political Leadership
Previous Winners include: Councilmember Jacquelyn Clarkson, Sen. J.P. Morrell, Rep. Austin Badon, Rep. Patricia Smith

Faith & Equality
Previous winners include: MCC Baton Rouge & MCC New Orleans, Rev. Welton Gaddy of Northminster Church of Monroe, LA
In your nomination, please include your name and contact information along with a short paragraph highlighting the contributions the individual or organization has made over the years. If you have any questions, please contact SarahJane, Executive Director. Please submit your nomination via email to sarahjane@forumforequality.org. Nominations are due before Friday, June 20th 5:00PM.

2.) Help Captain the Ship! Become a table captain and fill your table with your friends and family for an amazing night of fun and celebration! Find nine friends to join you at your table then join us at our Patron Party as a special thank you for all your hard work! Email me to sign-up at sarahjane@forumforequality.org.

3.) Volunteer! Whether it’s the night of the event or helping us get ready, we can always use a few extra hands! Use your talents and time to help us make this the best event of the year.

There are many ways to get involved and we hope that you will! If you have any questions or want to sign-up, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Yours in Equality,

SarahJane

SarahJane E. Brady
Executive Director, Forum For Equality

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Cook Out For Marriage Equality

We are asking families and friends across Louisiana to host CookOUTs in support of marriage equality. We want to share the stories of couples throughout our state and put faces to those affected by unequal and discriminatory laws that are denied to loving and committed same-sex couples. By hosting a CookOUT you will help change hearts and minds across the Pelican state!

cook out equality

Register Here

1. Invite Your Friends and Get the Word Out
Host your CookOUT at home, a friend’s house, a local park, or anywhere else you like. Create a Facebook event, Evite, or go old school and send out honest-to-goodness paper invitations to invite friends, family, and neighbors to your CookOUT, hosted between Wednesday June 4th and Monday June 23rd. Download our handy CookOUT logo to use in any online format.

2. Plan Your Menu
We’ve set up a mouth-watering Pinterest Board to get you started with menu inspiration. It can be as simple as burgers on the grill with guests bringing sides. Any cuisine works! This is truly about spreading the word about the importance of marriage equality in Louisiana with your friends, family, and neighbors.
Link to Pinterest available at: http://www.pinterest.com/forum4equality/cookout-for-marriage-equality/

3. Build Support for Equality
If you’re registered before June 9th, we’ll mail you a packet with information and literature for your CookOUT. In addition, you can also get couples to sign-up and join the movement at forumforequality.org.

4. Toast to Equality
Our CookOUT is happening in advance of the June 25th start date for oral arguments for the Forum for Equality’s lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s constitutional ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. It’s time to stand in solidarity by raising a glass for marriage equality.

5. Check-In and Share With Forum for Equality
Let us know how things go! If you use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, tag your CookOUT photos (#CookOUTLa). Don’t forget to send couples photos and stories from your CookOUT by June 24th to sarahjane@forumforequality.org for us to share throughout the state.

Please mail contributions collected to:
Forum for Equality
336 Lafayette Street, Suite 200
New Orleans, LA 70130

Questions, Comments, or Updates? E-mail SarahJane Brady at sarahjane@forumforequality.org

 

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Religious Freedom to Discriminate?

Earlier today, Senate Bill 164, which would have updated existing non-discrimination laws to include sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, was defeated in the Senate Judiciary A Committee on a 4-to-1 vote. The sole committee vote to pass the bill was the bill’s sponsor, Louisiana State Senator Ed Murray of New Orleans.

Senator Martiny (R) of Metairie asserted that it is the fault of the victim if she is denied service because of her sexual orientation or gender identity, while Senator Claitor (R) of Baton Rouge expressed his concern that the bill would violate the “religious freedom” of business owners to discriminate.

We thank Sen. Murray for his leadership in advocating for passage, but we are disappointed that partisan politics and willful ignorance defeated an effort to protect Louisiana’s citizens from discrimination. We are called to protect all people who are targets of discrimination, and our elected leaders need to recognize the important economic and social contributions of all our residents, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

We are grateful for the efforts of Senator Ed Murray who pushed for the bill to be approved. Please click here to send him a thank you note for his efforts.

Forum for Equality believes that all citizens are entitled to equal rights and should be treated fairly and equally under the laws of our state. We will continue fighting for those rights at the State Capitol and in local city and parish governments across Louisiana.

Yours in Equality,

SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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