It’s over. It has to be, right? After Governor Jindal announced on Sunday that the state would comply with the Fifth Circuit, and it ruled last night … he then moved the goalpost. He instead said he would then comply with the district court’s judgment, which was filed this morning and couldn’t be more “crystal clear,” to use the words of the state’s contracted attorney. You can read the opinion here.

The Fifth Circuit and the District Court both spoke clearly and unequivocally: these political shenanigans must cease and desist immediately. Our counsel will shortly be moving for attorneys’ fees, which the district court ruled it will award, and the more that Governor Jindal needlessly delays, the more this will cost the state.

With all of that, I am so very pleased that Governor Jindal’s continued attempts at scoring points with voters in Iowa were met with a deafening silence by state officials, as Clerks of Court across the state continued to implement and comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. The clerks, not Governor Jindal, show the true spirit of Louisiana.

We are so happy to begin our celebration of the Independence Day weekend by celebrating our independence from discriminatory marriage laws. We have so much more to do to achieve a full state of equality, but you should be proud of all that we’ve accomplished as you celebrate this weekend.

Yours in Equality,
SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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BREAKING NEWS: 5th Circuit

Today, the Fifth Circuit issued its ruling overturning the district court. We call upon Governor Jindal and all state officials to live up to their words that they will comply with the Fifth Circuit: the ruling is effective immediately.
To quote the court, the Supreme Court’s decision “is the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit and should not be taken lightly by actors within the jurisdiction of this court.”

We expect Vital Records to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses in Orleans Parish, and we expect the reported problems in Offices of Motor Vehicles to immediately cease. Any state officials who refuse to comply will be investigated, and Forum for Equality Louisiana will take any and all steps to protect the rights of all citizens in this state, and to enforce the Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit’s unambiguous decisions.

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When I became chair of Forum for Equality Louisiana, I dedicated myself to do whatever it took to ensure marriage equality as well as protections in jobs, housing and public accommodations for the LGBT community.

We were elated at the Supreme Court order, then disheartened when our elected officials left Louisiana the only state in the nation where no licenses were being issued.

After the close of business Friday, with not even one parish clerk issuing licenses, we drafted and sent a letter to the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association, putting the association and the clerks on notice that they were depriving same-sex couples of the now fundamental constitutional right to marry and were subject to both official and personal liability. We also promised that Forum for Equality Louisiana would investigate all complaints beginning Monday morning. Click here to view the letter we sent.

Within an hour after Forum for Equality released the letter to the media statewide, Jefferson Parish’s Clerk of Court began issuing marriage licenses. We were able to facilitate and participate in the first same-sex marriage in the state! Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin’s wedding was a deeply emotional ceremony, indeed a historic moment. View the the ceremony on WWLTV.com.

The dominos began following throughout the day as Clerks dropped their opposition. The Clerks of Court Association abruptly reversed itself, advising all clerks to immediately issue marriage licenses. As I write this, we have reports that almost all parishes are issuing licenses to all couples that apply, and we are working ensure that all parishes do. You can find the list of parishes issuing licenses here.

With the dust barely settled, we then joined the ACLU and six individual plaintiffs Tuesday in suing Governor Jindal for violating the Louisiana Constitution with his “Marriage and Conscience” executive order. Jindal’s unconstitutional order was issued hours after House Bill 707, which would have permitted discrimination in the name of religious belief, was killed 10-2 in a House committee. Forum for Equality actively fought against this bill with its coalition partners, including HRC and the ACLU. Click here to see a copy of the ACLU complaint.

We’re engaged in (and winning!) battles on more fronts than we have ever fought before! But none of this is possible without your continued support. WIll you join me today in investing in equality? The past few days have shown just a glimpse of what is possible – please join me now in saying NO to the state’s divisive policies and YES to a more inclusive and equal state! Please make a donation from the heart, and help build a state of equality here in Louisiana.
Yours in Equality,
Chris Otten
Chair, Forum for Equality Louisiana

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ACLU and Forum for Equality File Suit Against Governor Jindal Over Unconstitutional Marriage Executive Order

The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, Forum for Equality Foundation, and 6 individual plaintiffs today filed suit challenging Governor Bobby Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience Order,” signed on May 19, because it goes beyond his constitutional authority as governor. The lawsuit asserts that the “Marriage and Conscience Order” creates a class of persons who are protected over others due to their belief that same-sex couples should be denied marriage equality.

Prominent New Orleans law firm Herman Herman & Katz have joined in filing suit. The “Marriage and Conscience Order” sends the message that same-sex couples, their families and friends, and supportive employers should avoid living, working or visiting Louisiana, according to Herman Herman & Katz partner Steve Herman.

Under the Louisiana Constitution, the governor is not authorized to create a substantive right by executive order. The “Marriage and Conscience Order” creates substantive rights in favor of those who oppose marriage equality, and therefore is invalid. ACLU of Louisiana’s Executive Director Marjorie Esman said, “Governor Jindal has violated the Louisiana Constitution by setting up special protections for those who share his belief system. In our country no one is above the law, including the Governor. He swore to uphold the laws of Louisiana. This lawsuit seeks to hold him to that oath.” The plaintiffs in this lawsuit all believe differently from Governor Jindal on the issue of marriage equality, and need protection for their beliefs just as those whom he favors are now privileged by the order’s special protection.

Additionally, according to Esman, it has not gone unnoticed that Governor Jindal not only issued his “Marriage and Conscience Order” just hours after the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee voted to not advance an identical bill, but also one day after announcing an exploratory committee to prepare for a presidential run.

Both Esman and Herman agree that this executive order demonstrates a reckless disregard for both the law and interests of the people and businesses of Louisiana by interfering with the legislature’s powers and duties without authority, and contrary to the Louisiana Constitution.

A copy of the complaint may be found here: http://laaclu.org/resources/2015/jindal/063015ACLUvJindal-Complaint.pdf

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It’s finally here!

Equal in QAfter a historic win at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, marriage equality has come to Louisiana!

This morning, the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court became the first Clerk of Court to give the green light to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Shortly thereafter, in a ceremony officiated by The Honorable Paula Brown of the Civil District Court of New Orleans, Michael Robin and Earl Benjamin were finally able to say I DO! Forum for Equality sends the happily married couple its biggest congratulations and love!

Couples like Michael and Earl are now able to obtain their marriage licenses in various parishes across the state. Please stay up to date through our Decision Day Resources. We continue to work across Louisiana to make marriage available in every Parish!

We also keep working to end discrimination against the LGBT community entirely!  The cycle of injustice against the LGBT community can only come to an end with your help!

Please join the Forum for Equality in our continued fight against those forces in Louisiana that would have the LGBT community treated as second-class citizens!

With Equality for all,
SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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Sarah Jane Brady’s Remarks at the Decision Day Rally


Sarah Jane Brady, Forum for Equality Executive Director, addresses the crowd at the Decision Day Rally in Jackson Square

As I stand here, looking out over this amazing gathering of people, I can’t help but notice and feel one thing: love. Throughout our lifetimes, we have born witness to that one thing – love – as something celebrated only for the few.

Today is a momentous day for this country. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States made clear to all that marriage discrimination is behind us. Today, the Court has said that all of the men and women in this country are entitled to the dignity and respect they deserve. Today, the doors to, as Justice Kennedy wrote, “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family” have been opened for countless thousands of individuals. Today, the Court has ruled in favor of that one thing so present amongst the crowd here today: love. No longer should marriage be defined only as that “union between man and woman.” Marriage should now be defined as it always should have been: that union between two individuals that love each other with all of their being. Today, love won.

And yet, we still wait in Louisiana. While same-sex couples are marrying in other states as I speak, Louisiana continues to hold on to its discriminatory past. It is not yet possible for same-sex couples to reap the full benefit of this decision. However, rest assured that the past to which Louisiana so desperately clings will come to an end, and that the Louisiana of tomorrow will belong to all of us.

I’d like to take a moment to thank some of those people that were courageous enough to fight for marriage equality in this state:

  • The Lambda Legal team of Kenneth Upton, Susan Sommer, Camilla Taylor, Karen Loewy, Paul Castillo and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan.
  • Dalton Courson, Lesli D. Harris, John Landis, Brooke Tigchelaar and Maurine Wall of the New Orleans firm Stone Pigman Walther Whittmann.
  • The Forum for Equality plaintiffs – Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner, Henry Lambert and Carey Bond,  Andrew Bond and Nicholas Van Sickels of New Orleans and L. Havard Scott III and Sergio March Prieto.
  • As well as plaintiffs, Jonathan Robicheaux and Derek Penton and Courtney and Nadine Blanchard who were represented by attorney Richard G. Perque);
  • And Robert Welles and Garth Beauregard, represented by attorney Scott J. Spivey.

Today is a day of celebration. It is a day to celebrate our freedoms and our right to that one thing visible throughout this crowd: love. Today must also be a day of remembrance. Today we must also remember those other groups that suffer in the face of discrimination and hate. For those lives taken in the name of hatred in South Carolina, France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, and for our LGBT brothers and sisters who could not be with us today, I ask for a brief moment of silence.

We must realize that our fight against bigotry is not over! In the majority of this country, including Louisiana, while a same-sex couple could marry on a Friday, they can be fired on Monday – simply because of who they love. While we celebrate this incredible move forward, I call on each and every one of you to join the Forum for Equality and our allies the ACLU, HRC and PFLAG, in our continued fight to end all discrimination against the LGBT community: to end discrimination in housing; to end discrimination in education; to end discrimination in employment. To end discrimination period!

It is true that today, we found marriage. But I say to you now that tomorrow, we seek more!

Thank you all! I love you!

Sarah Jane Brady
Forum for Equality Executive Director

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love wins with dateForum for Equality Louisiana is exploring all legal options to force Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and state officials to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.

“We are very disappointed to announce that as of right now, we are unaware of any Clerks of Court issuing marriage licenses. The Attorney General and the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association have both advised that they do not believe the Supreme Court ruling yet applies to the State of Louisiana as a technical matter. We believe that this advice ignores the clear command of the Supreme Court of the United States, and it is further evidence of the discrimination and continued harm we have fought for more than twenty-six years to correct,” said Chris Otten, chair of the Forum for Equality Louisiana, the organization that filed Louisiana’s same-sex marriage case.

“We are currently exploring all options with our legal team, and we will update you as soon as we have more information. The great news: the question is no longer if Louisiana will get marriage equality; the question is now WHEN. And we will not stop fighting until all sixty-four parishes obtain real equality under the law, as promised by the Supreme Court’s decision today.”

The Forum filed a formal letter to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans asking the court to adopt the Supreme Court decision and rule in the Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas marriage case and direct officials to follow what is now the law of the land.

“We hope Gov. Jindal does not continue to be a roadblock on the road to equality that 37 states have already traveled. Louisiana’s same-sex couples have waited long enough, often at considerable expense to protect their relationships and families,” Otten said.

Forum for Equality Louisiana’s legal team at Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann L.L.C. and Lambda Legal is asking the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately issue a ruling applying the Supreme Court ruling to the consolidated Louisiana lawsuit filed by the Forum and seven couples attacking Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban, said Dalton Courson, one of the attorneys in the case.

After US District Court Judge Martin Feldman of New Orleans upheld Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban, one of the few federal judges to do so, Forum for Equality Louisiana joined forces with Lambda Legal to appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit. The three-judge appellate panel held oral arguments on January 9 in the Louisiana case, as well as similar cases from Mississippi and Texas. The appellate court has not yet ruled.

Robicheaux v. Caldwell is the consolidated appeal of Judge Feldman’s combined decision in three lawsuits filed in the past year: Robicheaux v. Caldwell, Robicheaux v. George and Forum for Equality Louisiana, Inc. v. Barfield. Judge Feldman issued his ruling upholding Louisiana’s discriminatory ban in early September. Lambda Legal joined the legal team in early October.

The plaintiffs in the combined appeal are:

–Jonathan Robicheaux and Derek Penton of New Orleans, together since 2005 and married in Iowa in 2012; and Courtney and Nadine Blanchard of Lafourche Parish, married in Iowa in 2013 and raising a son together (represented by New Orleans attorney Richard G. Perque);

–Robert Welles and Garth Beauregard of New Orleans, together for 24 years (represented by New Orleans attorney Scott J. Spivey of Landry & Spivey);

–Forum for Equality Louisiana, the LGBT advocacy organization founded in 1989: Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner of New Orleans, together since 2011, married in New York in 2012 and the parents of a baby girl born in 2013; Henry Lambert and Carey Bond of New Orleans, together since 1974 and married in New York in 2011; Andrew Bond and Nicholas Van Sickels of New Orleans, together since 2003, married in the District of Columbia in 2013 and the parents of a daughter; and L. Havard Scott III and Sergio March Prieto of Shreveport, together since 1997 and married in Vermont in 2010 (represented by J. Dalton Courson, Lesli D. Harris, John Landis, Brooke Tigchelaar and Maurine Wall of the New Orleans firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann L.L.C.).

The legal team also includes, from Lambda Legal: Kenneth Upton, Susan Sommer, Camilla Taylor, Karen Loewy, Paul Castillo and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan.

Forum for Equality Louisiana is Louisiana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) human rights organization dedicated to the establishment of a society free from discrimination and to the support of good government.

The Forum has set up a telephone for same-sex couples to phone in experiences in the parishes. The number is 225-323-8380. They may also go to the Forum’s web site, http://www.forumforequality.org. We will investigate all complaints,” Mary Griggs said.

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