It's been a huge week for marriage equality. Florida became the 36th state with the freedom to marry, judges in three southern states heard oral arguments, and the Supreme Court considered cases from five states. Plus a lawmaker in Texas is wasting everyone's time with a new anti-gay law that would make life difficult for everyone.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in several cases last Friday. That includes a crucial case from Louisiana. In September, Judge Martin Feldman upheld the state's marriage ban -- one of the only federal judges to rule against gay couples in the last year. Now that that the couples have appealed that anti-gay ruling, it's looking good for the Fifth Circuit to reverse it. At Friday's argument before a panel of three judges, only one seemed interested in upholding the ban. The other two were intensely skeptical. We could have a ruling there any day now, along with decisions in Texas and Mississippi.
For the last few weeks, anti-gay groups have been putting forth their best efforts to stop marriage from starting in Florida. But as luck would have it, their best efforts just weren't very good. With marriage starting last week in Florida, about 70 percent of the country now enjoys the freedom to marry. There are still several lawsuits in Florida that need to be worked out. But state attorneys are suddenly a lot less eager than they were a few weeks ago to stand in the way of marriage. In fact, last week the state quietly told a federal court that they're not even going to bother submitting a reply in the case responsible for the legalization for marriage. Attorney General Pam Bondi hasn't had anything useful to say about her ongoing litigation for several weeks. And at this point it seems like the only organization actively fighting marriage is Florida Family Action, a fringe group that's filed a few nuisance lawsuits that were almost immediately thrown out of court.
But there's still plenty of work to do in Florida. Besides those remaining lawsuits that need to be resolved, the state still needs to bolster its non-discrimination protections, particularly for trans people. It's still legal to fire someone for sexual orientation or gender expression in Florida. In fact, now that we're close to winning national marriage equality, it's likely that our opponents will start giving up on marriage, and instead focus on passing laws that make it easier for them to discriminate.
In Indiana, for example, Republican state Senator Scott Schnieder may introduce a bill this week that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay couples. And there's an even crazier law under consideration in Texas. It was introduced by Representative Cecil Bell Jr., and it would force Texas courts to dismiss all marriage cases and exempt Texas from having to obey the U.S. Constitution when it comes to marriage for gay and lesbian couples. So, can Texas actually do that? No, obviously not. This law will probably never pass -- and if by some miracle it actually did, there would be instant lawsuits to overturn it. Bell knows that, and he's only sponsoring this bill because he also knows that someone else -- taxpayers -- will have to shoulder the cost of settling that litigation. If Bell was actually held personally responsible for the consequences of his own pointless laws, he would probably suddenly be a lot less eager to put them forward.
In other news this week, Idaho Governor Butch Otter asked the Supreme Court to take one more look at undoing marriage equality. A new survey from the Rand Corporation shows public support for marriage equality at an all-time high: 62 percent. A judge in Georgia has allowed a marriage case to move forward.