Oct 9, 2014 5:38 AM
Supreme Court inaction leaves gay couples in limbo
The Associated Press
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) Days after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear any appeals from states trying to uphold gay marriage bans, Diane Ansley and Cathy McGaughey waited for hours in a church basement for a federal judge's order that would finally allow them to exchange their vows.
Similar scenes have played out across the country as same-sex couples waited for the go-ahead to wed, the aftermath of inaction by the high court that has sown confusion. Ansley and McGaughey had hoped to get their marriage license Thursday, then have their pastor marry them at the church not far from the courthouse.
"It's been such a roller coaster for sure what's happened with the lawsuit and back and forth," said the 54-year-old McGaughey. "Let's just get it done and have the celebration."
In North Carolina, where the ban had been overturned by a lower court judge and the attorney general had promised not to defend it anymore, the picture was still murky. In all, 11 states were affected by the Supreme Court's decision.
Ansley and McGaughey and other gay couples there were expecting an imminent court decision to let them marry. But on Thursday, Republican legislative leaders appeared to be making a last-minute move to block or delay the nuptials.
In South Carolina, which had not yet had its law overturned and where the attorney general vowed to keep fighting for it, there was even more confusion after a probate court judge on Wednesday accepted a marriage license application from a gay couple.
The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ordered state probate courts not to issue same-sex marriage licenses until a federal judge decides whether the state constitution's ban on the unions is legal.
West Virginia's attorney general said Thursday that his office would no longer fight a court challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriages, and license applications were being given to couples. The Arkansas Supreme Court refused to delay proceedings in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The marriage confusion even tripped up someone who should have known better.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy mistakenly blocked the start of same-sex marriage in Nevada in an order that spawned confusion among state officials. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed the mix-up Thursday, saying Kennedy's order issued a day earlier was an error that the justice corrected with a second order several hours later. By that time, however, Nevada officials had decided to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday until they could be certain the legal situation was settled.
The mistake was a blow to same-sex couples ready to apply for licenses in Idaho courthouses.
"We were past the metal detectors, we were just a few feet away from the clerk," Amber Beierle said Wednesday. She plans to marry her partner Rachael Beierle. "And then our attorney was handed a one-page document. Apparently, it was Justice Kennedy telling us, 'No.'"
The last week has been filled with hope and frustration for so many same-sex couples, said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a national group fighting to overturn gay marriage bans.
"The hope is palpable. It's a lifetime worth of waiting not to just be able to marry the person you love but to be able to walk out your front door in the morning and know that you're an equal citizen. ... The hope is extraordinary because we can see it on the horizon," she said.
But she added that "frustration doesn't quite capture the feeling" of same-sex couples who are watching states like North Carolina fight to maintain "discriminatory laws."
While many gay couples say the legal maneuvering by states are frustrating, they still believe the tide is turning in their favor.
Just ask Ansley and McGaughey, who have been together for 15 years and have a daughter.
They arrived early at the First Congregational United Church of Christ to meet with their pastor, the Rev. Joe Hoffman, to practice their wedding vows. Hoffman and the church congregation have supported gay rights for years.
As they waited, supporters and family members called for updates.
Ansley tried to stay positive even as the hours dragged on.
"Cathy is my soul mate, and to be able to legally say this is my wife ... would be just unbelievable," said Ansley, a 55-year-old retired Georgia law enforcement officer.
"I want the future generations to have what I didn't have."
Associated Press writers Kimberlee Kruesi and Rebecca Boone contributed to this story from Boise, Idaho.